By Cindy Yohe Lindsay
Special to The Examiner
The day was perfect for a crowd of more than 3,000, with blue skies and a canopy of white clouds. The dedication of the Texas Vietnam Memorial on March 29 on the Capitol grounds in Austin was a day that seemed blessed, not only because of the weather but also for the nine years it took to complete a monument to recognize those so well deserving.
Century-old oaks shaded the 14-foot-tall sculpture of an Infantry patrol. Entombed in the base of the monument are hand-struck replicas of 3,417 dog tags representing Texans who died or are unaccounted for in Vietnam.
The dedication day mirrored the exact day the last U.S. troops left Vietnam 41 years ago.
My husband, Michael and I were honored to attend the ceremony with 30-plus committee members from our area. The group from Southeast Texas played an important part in the monument’s birth.
Our Southeast Texas fundraiser, a “Welcome Home Brother” weekend in 2012, raised more than $60,000 toward the building of the $2.2 million dollar monument. The Texas Monument Committee matched our funds because Beaumont was the only city to answer the call for a major, area wide fundraiser in Texas. That call was answered by Barbara Otto, executive assistant to the Beaumont mayor’s office, who saw the need for a monument to our Vietnam veterans and made it happen. When I visited Barbara after the ceremony, she said, “I can’t believe this is finally happening. It’s a day I dreamed of.” And it truly was.
I also spent time with two Army nurses who served the wounded in Vietnam and, as 70 year olds, still weather the lack of recognition of a female in wartime service. I listened to an Army Specialist attached to the 101st Airborne who broke his back jumping from a Jolly Green Giant helicopter during the Battle of Huế in 1968. And I stood quietly during a ceremony as a Texas area South Vietnamese veterans organization gave tribute to the American forces for their fighting in support of their country.
For all, it was time for a sharing and remembering.
What I will cherish most from the day is attending the dedication with Michael’s friend for 30-plus years, LC Brown. My husband and LC have shared a cup of coffee nearly every morning during those many years on the carport of their friend James. Yet, according to Michael, LC never talked about his time “in country.” LC is a Vietnam vet who has ridden with the motorcycle team Rolling Thunder to “The Wall” in D.C. every Memorial Day for the past 20 years. He has had his hard times remembering friends lost. But on that March 29, he said he appreciated that we Texans had truly thanked him for his service and welcomed him home … finally. Michael said LC talked a lot the day of the dedication.
Remarks were made by many during the three-and-a-half-hour dedication ceremony, but none rang more true for all, civilians and veterans alike, than these: Gov. Rick Perry, standing shoulder to shoulder with the 12 Texas Vietnam veterans who spearheaded the monument’s creation, said, “The monument we dedicate today will stand as an ongoing demonstration of the depth of our appreciation for the sacrifices of our Vietnam veterans, and a reminder of what is noble and good about the human spirit.”
I hope, with all my heart, that we will always welcome home our Vietnam veterans and all service men and women who have served, are now serving and those who will take the oath of service in the future. God Bless them all.