SAN ANTONIO – They came wearing their colors, their patches, medals and hats — proud mementos of their service in an unpopular war. Vietnam veterans gathered Saturday on the West Side for an event honoring their service in a conflict that claimed nearly 300 of their local brothers. It was recognition they hadn't always received.
"We weren't very welcome when we got home," said Victor Mena, who served in the Navy during Vietnam. "And a lot of guys had bad experiences coming home."
Mena didn't have any problems coming home, but at the time, people didn't care returning service members had been in the war.
"I've never talked to any one of them that has said 'Oh, I'm the one that somebody spit in my face,'" he said. "We just weren't welcome."
That isn't the case today, and definitely not at the event where he was among brothers.
"When you come here," he said. "You don't have to worry about anybody having your back. Cause each and every one of these guys here will have your back."
The event's organizer, Jaime Macias, wants the vets to know the community has their backs, too. He believes the treatment they got coming home is the reason the country throws parades and massive events for its current veterans.
"Because history does not want to repeat itself in disrespecting our veterans of long ago," Macias said.
Instead, he vowed to repeat the respect.
"We are here to support our veterans, and for the entire country to emulate," he said. "So kudos to San Antonio. And like I said, we'll do it again next year, so come on down."