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Gratitude Across South Texas: Honoring our Vietnam Veterans

Picture of Vietnam Veteran and Registered Nurse
Army and Vietnam Veteran Alfredo Corral, poses with his nurse, Teresa Shaver, who works for the Home and Community-Based Care team out of San Antonio after being pinned with the 50th Vietnam Commemoration lapel pin and receiving his welcome home card. Corral had quite an entry into the Army, going to boot camp, then jump school, and was sent directly to Vietnam. After recalling his military service, he said he would still do it all over again, epitomizing the selflessness of the era.

On March 29th, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) honored and supported our Vietnam Era Veterans in various ways.

At the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital,  each inpatient Veteran that served during that time was given a Vietnam Veteran lapel pin and welcome home card on behalf of the South Texas VA by their nurse. 

“I’d do it all over again,” Eduardo Hernandez, Marine Corp. Veteran said tearfully while receiving his pin.

The Vietnam War and active U.S. involvement in the war began in 1954, though ongoing conflict in the region had stretched back several decades.

Registered Nurse, Araceli Salazar, cried tears of joy and honor to present her patient with a pin. “I am so happy I get to give this to him; you have no idea.”

I am a third generation Veteran. My grandfather served in World War I, my father served in World War II, and I served in Vietnam.” Ronald Gembler, Navy Veteran said proudly as he accepted his pin. “I can now add this to my hat!”

Family members that were visiting their loved ones were also gifted with a pin that read “Proud Vietnam Veteran Family Member” as a form of appreciation for the support they continuously give to our nation’s heroes. “This is so kind, thank you so much,” Sandy Hodson, daughter of Airforce Veteran, Richard Colburn said.

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System was additionally honored to attend a Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration on the southeast side of San Antonio, hosted by San Antonio District 3 Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran.

The event, held at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9186, was both celebratory and somber.

The Veterans present were touched by the proper “Welcome Home” given at the event, but painful memories also filled the room. Misty eyes were present in the hall as many in attendance remembered lost comrades and experiences they would like to forget. 

“It’s an honor for us to do this, we never want to forget those who have come before us to defend our country.” Says Ralph Alverado, VFW Post 9186 Commander.

The commemoration was highlighted by keynote speeches by District 3 Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran and South Texas Veterans Health Care System Deputy Medical Center Director, John Mendoza.

After the speeches, all Vietnam Veterans present also received a special lapel pin, given to them by Councilwoman Viagran and VFW Post 9186 staff.

After receiving their pin, the Vietnam Veterans took a moment to revel in each other’s company, many trading stories from their time in active duty and catching up with long-forgotten acquaintances.

The event was long overdue for many of these Veterans, but it is a start to properly thank them and welcome them home.

Over 100 miles away, the Val Verde County Service Office hosted a health and wellness event in Del Rio, Texas, for Veterans and their families.

The event had plenty to offer in the way of health, but the Home and Community-Based Care (H&CBC) wanted to also work on the wellness of dozens of Vietnam-era Veterans by conducting a pinning ceremony and providing the welcome home they truly earned and deserved.

Many of the Veterans in rural Val Verde County don’t often get to participate in programs that are frequently offered in large metropolitan areas like San Antonio, so the H&CBC brought the event to them.

The buzz of Veterans working through vendor tables became silent when James Powell came to the microphone to introduce the distinguished guests and asked the crowd for applause for those Veterans that were seated in front of them at the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce.

When it came time to pin them, Veterans representing all military branches made their way up to the front, some using rollators, wheelchairs, and canes; a visual of how long ago these Veterans were fighting this war, and unfortunately how long they have been fighting to be properly recognized. 

Army paratrooper Alfredo Corral said the presentation was wonderful and agreed it was long overdue.

“It was beautiful, I’ll tell you what, there were a lot of people responding, and that’s what I like, people who were never in a place like that [Vietnam], they were here to pick you up,” Corral said.

100 miles from her office, Executive Director, Julianne Flynn provided remarks at the Vietnam Veterans Ceremony hosted by Tomas Valle American Legion Post 479 at the El Progresso Library in Uvalde, Texas. 

As the newly appointed Executive Director for South Texas Veterans Health Care System, Dr. Flynn shared her priorities of providing the highest quality of care and exceptional Veteran experience every time. 

“We know that Veterans have choices for where they can get their care,” said Flynn. “And we want to be your health care provider of choice.”  A reading of the names honoring those from Uvalde who died in the line of duty during the Vietnam War was provided along with a ringing bell of remembrance. 

The South Texas Veterans Health Care System thanks our Vietnam Era Veterans for their dedicated service and support that they have given us throughout the years.

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