Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument Dedication Ceremony

By Anneliese Bustillo
Seats by the Capitol building.

Seats by the Capitol building.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument (TCVVM) dedication ceremony. It was an incredibly moving ceremony honoring the 3,417 men from Texas who were lost in Vietnam.

Before the statue was unveiled, there was an invocation, Pledge of Allegiance, and speeches from Karoni Forrester (Vice Chairman of the National League of POW/MIA Families) and General Kicklighter, and Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst. In his speech, General Kicklighter made mention of VVMF’s 2012 Memorial Day ceremony and President Obama’s speech, while Lt. Gov. Dewhurst talked about how his coming home experience was celebratory and positive thanks to a generation of Vietnam veterans.For me the highlight of the day was an incredibly powerful speech by Congressman Sam Johnson who told stories of his seven years in the Hanoi Hilton (ncluding 42 months in solitary confinement.) He spoke of the courage of his fellow POWs and his own struggle with coming home when many of friends did not. He ended his speech with a story of a fellow POW named Mike who sewed an American flag into the lining of his jacket, and the men would hang it up every morning to recite the pledge. Once the NVA found out, Mike was beaten and tortured and left unconscious for over two days. When he finally awoke, the first thing Johnson saw Mike do was begin collecting more string to make a new flag. Congressman Johnson dedicated the memorial to Mike and the POWs who did not return home.After the statue was uncovered, the politicians who worked to get legislation through the Texas Congress spoke, including State Senator Chuy Hinojosa (a Vietnam vet), State Representative Wayne Smith (also a Vietnam vet), and State Senator Leticia Van de Putte.

TCVVM Committee speaks at the memorial.

TCVVM Committee speaks at the memorial.

The ceremony concluded with the TCVVM Committee Chairman Robert Floyd thanking the entire committee for their work and a speech by Governor Rick Perry accepting the monument on behalf of the people of Texas.

The ceremony lasted over two hours and had thousands upon thousands of veterans and their families in attendance.

In addition to the ceremony, there were tables from a variety of organizations including the Vietnam Center and Archive (at Texas Tech University), the 50th Anniversary Commemoration, and the Military Vehicles Preservation Society. Also, in the Capitol rotunda basement was an exhibition featuring hand made service tags for all 3,417 Texans on The Wall.

For more about the event, here’s a great news story from Austin’s NBC station and the TCVVM‘s Facebook page is full of wonderful pictures from the day.
Anneliese Bustillo is the Collections Curator at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.