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Photo courtesy of Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument

Chairman of the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument Committee Robert Floyd speaks to a crowd of people gathered to celebrate the recent groundbreaking on the northeast side of the Texas State Capitol lawns.

The Vietnam Memorial at the Texas State Capitol broke ground March 25 under the determined leadership of Westbank resident Robert Floyd.

The Vietnam veteran wants the new 14-foot bronze monument to take its place on the Capitol grounds to honor the half a million Texas soldiers that served during the Vietnam War. An estimated 3,417 young Texans perished during the more than 20 years of conflict in Vietnam. There are still 105 Texas men listed as missing in action. Now Vietnam veterans will take their place of honor alongside the heroes of the Alamo, Confederate soldiers and Texas veterans of World War I, World War II and the Korean War.

The monument is doubly important as it serves as a belated welcome home to Vietnam veterans who returned alone to face a country angry about the war, Floyd said.

“We came home to a country that did not appreciate the individual efforts of soldiers,” said Floyd, who serves as the chairman of the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument Committee. “We were spit upon and cursed. It was a time when people took the war out on those who served.”

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson acted as master of ceremonies at the groundbreaking on the monument site on the northeast side of the Capitol. Speaking during the ceremony were Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Texas Senators Juan Hinojosa and Leticia Van de Putte and Texas Representative Wayne Smith. Combat correspondent and author of “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young,” Joe Galloway delivered the keynote address.

Coinciding with the groundbreaking was the opening of the Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit at the LBJ Library at the University of Texas. The exhibit, which features 3,417 personalized dog tags honoring the Texans who perished in Vietnam, will remain at the LBJ Library through July. The exhibit then begins a journey across the United States to offer insight through other museum locations.

It is estimated that the Capitol monument, with it’s interactive information, will cost around $1.5 million to set in place. Floyd and his committee have raised more than $1.3 million, including a $500,000 matching grant approved by the Texas Legislature and administered by the Texas Historical Commission.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of American withdrawal from Vietnam. In the decades that have passed, the country has lived through other wars, and Americans have learned to honor those who serve in the military – to honor the soldier, if not the war.

Floyd began wearing his Vietnam service pin for the first time in 2003 when he began working on the memorial idea. People now ask him about it and listen to his story.

“A lot of times they look me in the face and say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ ” he said.

There will be an installation at the monument site that will allow smart phones and tablets to link directly to a website at http://buildthemonument.org/, where visitors can learn more about the Vietnam War. By the end of the year, the monument should rise 14 feet above the Capitol grounds with five bronze infantry figure. It will stand as a permanent reminder of the bravery shown and the sacrifice given by Vietnam soldiers and their families. It will also serve as a chance for Americans to learn much about our country and how we have faced conflict.

As visitors look for the first time upon the monument, Floyd hopes the will remember those who served in Vietnam, especially the 3,417 young Texas men who lost their lives there.

“It is a chance to say, ‘Thank you,’” Floyd said. To stop and say, ‘Welcome home, your service is appreciated.’ ”
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