The Warriors United in Arms hosted a special ceremony for the unveiling of a United States rescued flag Friday at the International Bank of Commerce where dozens of community members and veterans gathered to pay their respects.
The flag is approximately 51 years old and it was rescued from being burned in Vietnam during the war in April of 1975. It was kept for more than 30 years in the house of the veteran who rescued it from those who were trying to burn it in Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.
“In the confusion of the evacuation that hectic day, the ceremonial U.S. flag, which was displayed in the Ambassador’s ceremonial room, was not removed from its stand. The U.S. had promised to evacuate all Vietnamese personnel that were employed at the U.S. Embassy. However, in the panic to evacuate South Vietnam, many of the employees were not helped,” spokesperson for the organization, Larry Jokl, said to the audience.
“Two Vietnamese embassy employees were very upset that they would not be evacuated as promised, they tore down the U.S. ceremonial flag from its stand and tried to burn it and tear it apart. They were not successful because a young Marine lieutenant wrestled it away from them after a short struggle.”
Jokl said the veteran eventually brought it back to the United States and for 30 years he kept it in his home until one day he decided to give it to an Army veteran from La Feria. This veteran kept the flag for years and several times tried to retire the flag by ceremoniously burning it, but he just could not do it. Eventually, he decided to give it to his friend Tony Garcia, the founder and chief executive officer of the organization.
“We look at the flag as our brother, the flag went to Vietnam and we went to Vietnam. The flag was disrespected and we were disrespected; when we came home we were so happy and thrilled to be back home but we were not received with the same enthusiasm,” Garcia said.
“Back then it was popular to burn the flag but we were not going to stand up for that … we love that flag, it has been all over the world and the people that served under that flag helped liberate more people than all the other nations combined.”
The flag has partial tears in it, has burn marks on it and it could possibly have a bullet hole or two, according to the veterans, but it is now in a protected wood and glass cabinet that was designed and constructed by members of the organization.
“The flag, to me, represents the people that gave the ultimate sacrifice of 58,479 men and women that proudly wore their uniform,” Joaquin Garcia, a veteran and member of the organization, said. “During this time and age it stands for freedom and guess what? Some of them did not make it back and I thank the lord every morning because without him I don’t know if I would have made it back.”
Marisela Cardenas Cortez, district director for U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela. D-Vela, said the flag is the most precious symbol of freedom and represents the sacrifices made by the American servicemen and women who have fallen defending the country, those who are currently serving and the honored veterans.
“Our Vietnam Veterans were called to serve during very difficult times in a conflict that divided our nation. But the sacrifices they bore remain all these decades later and our veterans that served us so bravely deserve the admiration and continued support of all Americans,” she said.
“Your efforts to restore this precious American flag exemplify your continuous commitment to those who have served our country and who continue to serve in present day throughout the world.”