CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Next week, the nation will honor our veterans of the Vietnam War with the sixth annual National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
The commemoration was established in 2017, when then-President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam Veterans Recognition Act. The day is observed on March 29, as that day in 1973 was the day U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disestablished, and the last combat units left the country.
“Finally, everybody has the courtesy and respect to recognize all of us,” said U.S. Army veteran Lazaro Camarillo III.
When many U.S. troops came home from Vietnam, they were treated with everything but respect.
“We were draftees,” said U.S. Army veteran Juan Saenz. “We didn’t ask to go, we went and served and to come home to be treated like that? It wasn’t right.”
Camarillo, who served with the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of Hamburger Hill, saw that treatment first-hand when he came home in 1970.
“We got to Ft. Lewis, Washington,” recalled Camarillo. "They were throwing eggs, tomatoes to the veterans going out the gate. I saw this one particular brother, American soldier, that the egg or tomato hit him right here,” he said as he pointed at an image of the Combat Infantryman Badge. “This you earn.”
Two years earlier, a similar scene happened at Los Angeles International Airport for returning Marine Henry Escobedo.
“They were throwing stuff at the bus and spitting on it,” Escobedo said. “Eggs and all this other stuff.”
But inside the airport, Escobedo has an encounter he'll never forget.
“This person comes up and asks where I’m going,” Escobedo recalled, getting emotional. “I told him I was going home, but I had to make it in about 15 minutes. He told this guy by his side, 'you make sure this Marine gets on that plane, if he doesn’t you’re fired.' The person was Dean Martin.”
Saenz also came home in 1968, but says there were no angry crowds when he arrived in San Francisco. While he wasn’t harassed, he saw the way his brothers-in-arms were being treated, and was disappointed.
“It kind of makes you mad,” Sanez said. “It takes a while for that anger to go away. The older you get, you start mellowing a little bit.”
The Coastal Bend will recognize Vietnam War Veterans Day March 29, with ceremonies in Corpus Christi at the Nueces County Courthouse and in Riviera at the Seawind RV Park. The ceremony at the Nueces County Courthouse will take place at 10 a.m., while the ceremony at Seawind RV Park will start at 11:00 a.m.
If you know of other events on March 29, let us know at email@example.com.