‘We’re Mil­i­tary City USA’: Event honors Viet­nam vet­er­ans

Vol­un­teer groups spon­sor cel­e­bra­tion of ser­vice mem­bers

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - By Vin­cent T. Davis STAFF WRITER

Can­non fire echoed from a West Side park Satur­day in honor of mil­i­tary vet­er­ans and the city’s tri­cen­ten­nial.

Mem­bers of the San An­to­nio Liv­ing His­tory As­so­ci­a­tion fired a can­non on the hour, dur­ing a re­cre­ation of the 1813 Bat­tle of Alazán Creek be­tween Span­ish roy­al­ists and the Repub­li­can Army of the North. The as­so­ci­a­tion’s chair­man, Robert Be­na­vides, watched with pride as vis­i­tors stopped by Smith Park to watch vol­leys of mus­ket fire.

“We’re Mil­i­tary City USA,” he said. “It’s a good way to talk about San An­to­nio’s mil­i­tary her­itage for 300 years, all the way through Viet­nam and Iraq.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion part­nered with vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion You Are Not For­got­ten and sev­eral vet­eran or­ga­ni­za­tions to spon­sor the third cel­e­bra­tion. The SA300 Tri­cen­ten­nial event took place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1500 W. Com­merce St., near an iconic West Side mu­ral with the same name as the non­profit.

The sched­ule called for a mo­ment of si­lence in honor of vet­er­ans killed in ac­tion and a panoramic photo taken of Viet­nam vet­er­ans in front of the mu­ral painted by artist Michael Ro­man. And each year, a bell is rung when the name of each de­ceased Viet­nam vet­eran from lo­cal high schools is an­nounced.

Be­fore speak­ing to the crowd, the key­note speaker, re­tired Ma­rine Corps Maj. Gen. An­gela Sali­nas, viewed a mem­o­ra­bilia ex­hibit fea­tur­ing a wooden al­tar etched with sol­diers car­ry­ing fallen com­rades.

“I think it’s so in­dica­tive of our cul­ture to give back to the com­mu­nity,” she said. “And to the na­tion.”

Sali­nas said the rea­son that Gulf War and Afghanistan War

vet­er­ans came home as heroes was be­cause of Viet­nam vet­er­ans who re­fused to let them be treated the way they were treated.

At the event’s pavil­ion, a “Wel­come Vet­er­ans” sign greeted men and women who had served dur­ing con­flicts dat­ing back to World War II. Speak­ers and dig­ni­taries ad­dressed the crowd of more than 350 peo­ple sit­ting at ta­bles cov­ered with red, white and blue table­cloths.

Well-wish­ers stopped to chat with Fer­nando Her­rera, a qui­et­spo­ken man, rec­og­nized as the city’s most dec­o­rated Viet­nam vet­eran. In 1986, the city named a park on the East Side in his honor.

While serv­ing with the Army’s 25th In­fantry Divi­sion, he re­ceived sev­eral medals for brav­ery un­der fire, in­clud­ing a Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Cross, four Bronze Stars and the Pur­ple Heart.

He said it was great get­ting to see men he con­sid­ered broth­ers- in-arms.

“You were just do­ing your job,” Her­rera, 71, said be­side his wife, Lil­ian. “When you’re over there, you’re scared as hell, but it’s about sur­vival.”

As Mark Jau­regui, 37, walked through the crowd, he stopped at ta­bles to salute and thank vet­er­ans for their ser­vice. He said that as a Navy vet­eran who served in Iraq, he un­der­stands what it means to serve.

“They’ve seen more than me,” he said. “They de­serve thanks.”

Dis­trict 5 Coun­cil­woman Shir- ley Gon­za­les said the event hon­ored area vet­er­ans who died, in­clud­ing the 55 from Edge­wood In­de­pen­dent School Dis­trict.

“We’re en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to come back to the neigh­bor­hood,” she said, “and cel­e­brate our cul­ture and his­tory.”

Jaime Ma­cias, founder of the event, said the Viet­nam mu­ral has be­come a bea­con for the West Side.

“They say that 78207 is the poor­est ZIP code in the city,” he said. “But it’s prob­a­bly the most pa­tri­otic. ”

Kin Man Hui / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Viet­nam vet­er­ans Fer­nando Her­rera, left, and Ar­mando Al­bar­ran greet each other as vets are hon­ored at the third an­nual You Are Not For­got­ten event on the West Side on Satur­day.

Kin Man Hui / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Mil­i­tary vet­er­ans salute the post­ing of the col­ors Satur­day as Viet­nam vet­er­ans are hon­ored at the third an­nual You Are Not For­got­ten event on the West Side. In the event’s third year, or­ga­niz­ers opened the gath­er­ing to all mil­i­tary vet­er­ans.

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