On March 29, 1973, the last remaining members of the United States armed forces withdrew from Vietnam and returned home. To commemorate this day, in 2009, I passed legislation to designate March 29 as Texas Vietnam Veterans Day. Five years ago, on this day, we dedicated the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument at the Texas Capitol to welcome home our Texas Vietnam Veterans. This beautiful monument on the northeast grounds of the Capitol honors the loyalty and the courage of those Texans who served in Vietnam.
The Vietnam war was a controversial and unpopular war, where over 58,000 American soldiers lost their lives, and many others were MIA or POWs. It was a war that we as a country did not understand. We often confused its unpopularity with the courage and valor of our soldiers. Because of this, many of us never felt welcomed upon our return home to our own country.
Many of us Vietnam Veterans, still remember the rice paddies and jungles of Chu Lai, Da Nang, Huề, Khe Sanh, and of course Saigon to name a few. Every day of my life as I smell the flowers, hear the birds sing, feel the wind and enjoy my freedom, I am grateful and reminded of my fellow Marines in Vietnam — Anzio an Italiano from the Bronx, New York; the two West Virginia brothers; the blue-eyed son of an Alabama preacher; Shellhorn, the Bronco Rider from New Mexico; Suarez from El Paso; a couple of farmers from West Texas; the corn husker from Nebraska; and my African American friends from L.A. and Chicago.
In Vietnam, we created a family away from home. We were all Americans; we were united. We stood together ready to fight and die for our country — our freedom. We were all the same despite our different races, religions, backgrounds and cultures, and states of residence. We were all the same then, and continue to be the same now. We understood that our diversity represented what makes our country a great nation — The United States of America!
But who were these soldiers in Vietnam? Many of us were volunteers, and many were drafted without a choice. Many were taken away from their families to fight a war in an unknown place. Those soldiers were us — our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our neighbors, and our friends. They courageously answered the call to serve our country, and many died for our freedom and the freedom of others. Vietnam taught our country a lesson, one that I hope we never forget — and that is — always honor and respect our soldiers, their sacrifice and courage, whether fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam or other wars. Throughout our nation’s history, it is our servicemen and women and their families who sacrifice and stand committed to defend our country.
This Texas Vietnam Veterans Day, I hope you join me in honoring our Texas Vietnam soldiers and remember the 3,417 Texans who lost their lives in Vietnam. I will be remembering all my fellow servicemen including three of my high school classmates: Jesus Martinez, Walter Merle Langford, and Leonel Buntello. I hope that as long as we honor and remember our soldiers’ sacrifice, they will always be with us in memory and spirit.
Semper Fi. God Bless our country.
Senator Hinojosa proudly co-authored House Concurrent Resolution 36 of the 79th Legislative Session in 2005 authorizing a Vietnam Veterans War monument on the Capitol grounds. Senator Hinojosa then worked to secure funding through a legislative rider in 2011 by obtaining a $500,000 matching grant towards the installment of this historic monument.
Finally, Senator Hinojosa passed legislation in 2009 to declare an official day of recognition specifically for Vietnam Veterans. On March 29, 1973, the last remaining members of the United States armed forces withdrew from Vietnam; thus, March 29 has been declared “Vietnam Veterans Day.”