‘We’re Military City USA’: Event honors Vietnam veterans
Volunteer groups sponsor celebration of service members
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. ”
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.
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.