An attitude of gratitude was pervasive throughout the Texas Panhandle War Memorial Sunday afternoon, as Vietnam War veterans were feted during a spirited ceremony designed to thank those who served with unwavering dedication and commitment.


The veterans were joined by family, friends and supporters at Veterans Park, participating in a program that included musical selections, a wreath presentation at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and a salute to the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard branches, as well as POW / MIA.


U.S. Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Norman Jordan served as the event’s featured speaker, delivering a stirring message that carried those in attendance on a journey via a series of Vietnam veterans Jordan interviewed who wished to remain anonymous,  recalling service experiences and the reception received after returning home from their tour of duty.


“The purpose of this ceremony today is to recognize and welcome home Vietnam veterans,” he said. “In order to do that, I want to give everyone a feel for what our generation was taught. We were taught when your nation calls on you, you go where you’re told, when you were told and do what you are told. You go without reservation or hesitation. You’ll sacrifice whatever is asked of you, many of you will be grievously wounded, many of you will suffer from mental anguish and over 58,000 of you will give your very lives. But you will go and serve and become a warrior. You’ll be welcomed home a hero. There will be parades and tears of joy and appreciation. Your friends and family will be proud of you and want to be associated with you. You’ll be known as a war hero. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it was.”


Jordan, who referenced the establishment of the Vietnam War Commemoration, commended Vietnam veterans for their due diligence, perseverance and overarching desire to remain vigilant in all endeavors.


“I would like to personally thank each and every one of the Vietnam veterans,” he said. “I’d like to thank everyone who served in the air, on land, in the river and offshore. Keep the faith, because you and I know we did what we did to serve the ones who could not or would not serve.”


Officials said National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29 honors the men and women who served and sacrificed during the longest conflict in United States history.


Navy Chief Petty Officer Eloy Heras, 74, completed three tours of duty in Vietnam and was one of five veterans recognized Sunday for honorable and dedicated combat service in South Vietnam and continuous dedication to the Texas Panhandle War Memorial.


“We always had to hide from the public, because we weren’t very popular,” said Heras, who has grandsons serving in the Navy and Marines, respectively. “So now, we’re recognizing the veterans. We were sent out there, just following orders. I lost a friend out there. His name is Stephen L. Hock, from Grants Pass, Oregon. He died and I came back. This is for him and the rest of the veterans in Amarillo and the United States. They’re all warriors, whether in the air, sea or on the ground."