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Veterans across the city of Mission and the Rio Grande Valley have an opportunity to witness a historic event.
On Wednesday, March 11, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Wall arrived at the Mission Event Center (200 N Shary Rd.). The largest traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall in the country was displayed in Mission since Thursday, and will be available for viewing through 3 p.m. Sunday this week (March 12 through 15).
The public was invited to honor the 58,307 Vietnam veterans the nation lost in the war. Of those fallen service members, 146 were from the Valley. Wall rubbing sheets will be available for friends and family of the fallen heroes to memorialize their visit to the wall.
Entering the county at about 2:30 p.m., the wall first stopped at the RGV State Veterans Cemetery for a special drive by. It was greeted by several veterans on site, and TAPS was played in honor of the fallen.
A convoy comprised of the Mission Police Department, American Legion Riders, Rio Grande Valley Patriot Guard Riders and the McAllen Chapter of the American Bikers Association led the wall from the Brooks County Line.
The wall arrived at the event center at approximately 3:00 p.m. A flag detail was on location and veterans from America’s Last Patrol were there to salute and welcome the wall. Other RGV veterans, and Vietnam veterans in particular, were urged to join in the wall salute via a call out on social media.
Robert Garza, the treasurer for the Catholic War Veterans Post 1065, is a veteran of the Air Force who served during the Vietnam Era. Stationed in Thailand during his service, Garza flew in three bombing missions over Vietnam.
“It brings back a lot of memories,” Garza said. “It’s a very precious thing to see, because the big Vietnam wall is all the way in Washington, D.C.”
Garza has visited the wall in Washington several times, and noted that it never fails to bring tears to people’s eyes.
“There are a few names that pop out, some of my friends from Mission that I knew back then,” Garza said. “So it’s a healing thing, to see the names down.”
Garza was one of the many veterans present who saluted the wall as it entered and was being set up outside the event center. He, along with the other veterans, agreed it was an honor.
“I think it’s something that most veterans should be able to see,” Garza said. “All of us have experience in losing a family member, you grieve. For Vietnam veterans, sometimes it gets too emotional for those on the front line. It’s very touching.”
Mission Mayor Armando O’caña spoke before the wall was set up and expressed thanks to all the veterans who have served the country.
“We salute this on behalf of the 14 citizens of Mission that died in Vietnam, and not just those 14, but also for all the others who died in Vietnam,” O’caña said. “We want to recognize and give the honors necessary and deserved for those who fought who were never given the opportunity.”
O’caña described the veterans of Vietnam returning to the country only to be ostracized for their service. He said they often had to go straight to a restroom to change out of their uniform in fear of vitriol from the public.
“There was no pride in our veterans,” O’caña said. “But that has changed. We’re here to honor them today.”