Patriotic party to honor Vietnam-era veterans

Patriotic party to honor Vietnam-era veterans

Young Americans Overseas (YAO) will play host to the second annual Veteran Fest, a festive patriotic party, on Sunday, Aug. 5 at the Downtown Event Centre (700 Crockett St.) in Beaumont, sponsored by Humana and Marvic International LLC Construction.

The event begins at 2 p.m. and will include a Vietnam Era Veterans Pinning Ceremony at 2:30 p.m. YAO and Humana are commemorative partners for the Vietnam War Commemoration, a federal program established in 2012 by the President and Congress to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their family members.

The pinning ceremony is meant to recognize Vietnam veterans and their families for their service. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 9 million Americans served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and approximately 7 million are living today.

Veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are eligible to participate in the ceremony. Family members are recognized as well.

“This is anticipated to be one of the largest pinning ceremonies in Southeast Texas to date,” said Dr. Margot Gage, founder and director of Young Americans Overseas. “We do not want to miss anyone, so that if someone knows a Vietnam veteran or is a Vietnam veteran, now is the time to please come forward to get your award from the Department of Defense.”

There will be free food along with free drinks at Veteran Fest along with plenty of live musical performances.

The event is also free and open to the public to attend by RSVP by calling (409) 923-0704 or online at Priority seating will be given to active-duty military, first responders and veterans. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. Seating is limited.

“Vietnam veterans are the only era veterans that received a traumatic welcome home,” said Gage. “Young Americans Overseas decided to have a big party in celebration of Vietnam veterans because Vietnam veterans did not get a proper welcome home.”

The mission of Young Americans Overseas (YAO) is to assist young Americans, especially Post 9/11 veterans and their families, with reaching their full potential and traveling abroad. Their goals are to assist Post 9/11 veterans with housing, resources, sponsor youth community engagement programs, and hold special events that inspire, educate and entertain.

Gage, who is also an assistant professor at Lamar University in the Sociology Department, started this nonprofit with her husband, Victor, who was a member of the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

“My father was in the Air Force and I have aunts and uncles who served in Vietnam as well as a number of cousins currently in the military,” said Gage. “Although I did not serve myself, I wanted to contribute in my own way. My husband and I started this nonprofit to encourage young people to travel abroad and to assist Post 9/11 veterans with housing upon their separation from the military.”

YAO launched the first-ever veteran first housing complex in Jefferson County, and Gage said that 100 percent of the proceeds from Veteran Fest will go toward building Texas’s first Women Veteran and Women First Responder Park. In May 2017, YAO held a groundbreaking ceremony at 2390 Linson St. in Beaumont.

Musicians scheduled to perform include John Thibodeaux, Highway Sisters, Byrd Law, Dustin Kelley, John Cessac, Courtney Hale Revia and Wild Rabbit Salad.

This will be the second year for Cessac to perform. Gage said that he has been a great supporter of veterans and was a hero during Harvey as he tirelessly helped rescue those that were flooded. 

Thibodeaux, who was deployed to Afghanistan, is a popular artist in the Golden Triangle and has recently announced a new album titled Moments Like This. The record’s first single, “Buzzed On Loving You,” is currently charting on the Texas Country charts.

“I am performing one of my songs off the new album for Veteran Fest called ‘Thank a Soldier’,” said Thibodeaux. “I’m honored that I can pay homage, through my music and performance to my fellow veterans and am glad to see them get the recognition they deserve.”

Thibodeaux has also been nominated for two Texas Country Music Awards, Emerging Artist of the Year and Cajun Country Artist of the Year.

Special guest speakers have been invited to take part in the festivities including veteran, former sheriff and gubernatorial candidate for Texas Lupe Valdez. Gage also said the Department of Defense will fly keynote speaker Col. Mark Franklin from Washington D.C. to address local Vietnam veterans.

“Humana has a long-standing commitment to the military and veterans, so that’s why we felt it was important to be part of this year’s Veteran Fest,” said Matthew Berg, Humana’s Northeast Texas sales manager. “One of the relationships we have is being a commemorative partner to the Vietnam War Commemoration program, which aims to honor those who served during the Vietnam War era. When Vietnam veterans returned to the United States, there were no welcome home ceremonies at airports or other public places as is the case today. This is our opportunity to welcome these veterans home and thank them for their service.”

Gage added that it was important to teach the youth about the Vietnam Veterans.

“This is why we are going to have a lot of fun activities for young people including games, petting zoo and face painting,” said Gage. “We hope to see young people come out and shake hands with Vietnam Veterans. We’ve also invited iRule Dance, who is a local youth dancing group, to perform a special dance for Vietnam Veterans. I always try to incorporate Lamar students in all Young Americans Overseas events. This year you will see a number of my past students out there dining and dancing with the Veterans.”

Veteran Fest will conclude at 6:30 p.m.


Chad Cooper is the Entertainment Editor. Email cooper [at] theexaminer [dot] com