"We came back to a nation that spat on us, we came back to a nation that was not proud of us"
This is how US Navy Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Michael Redman described his return from the Vietnam War. Now that may be an abrupt way to describe what happened, but for many veterans who fought through it, those harsh words are the absolute truth.
Then came Monday, a day many Southeast Texas Vietnam Veterans had been waiting for, a day to finally receive that much needed thank you for their service in one of the most controversial wars in U.S. history.
Veterans from across the area gathered at Edison Plaza to witness the arrival of the Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit, a display of 3,417 dog tags, each representing a Texas veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War.
Each dog tag was personally hand crafted by Texas Vietnam Veteran Don Dorsey. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to see the name, hometown, branch of service, and rank of each veteran killed during the war. The exhibit will be on display for 3 weeks at Edison Plaza, starting September 18 and continuing through October 5.
Sergeant Major Dana Braquet says this exhibit will help bind old wounds and restore the honor many of them never received.
"For the Vietnam veterans that came back to such an abrupt, rough, mean, hateful return from war, hopefully it's healing for them.
The dog tags were transported in a large wooden box, draped with an American flag. The Houston Patriot Guard Riders assisted in escorting the exhibit, which has been on a state-wide tour since July, while a permanent monument is constructed at the state capitol in Austin. It previously made a stop in San Antonio at the Institute of Texan Cultures.
"It's just and incredible testament to our patriotism, the way Southeast Texas feels about our country, our freedom, our liberty and supporting those who fight for it," says District 14 Congressman Randy Weber.
Now that patriotism is on display in Downtown Beaumont, a living tribute to the heroes who never truly received a hero's welcome.