SAN BENITO, RGV – Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, a native of Rio Grande City who commanded U.S. ground forces in Iraq, will be keynote speaker at San Benito’s Vietnam-Era Veterans’ Tribute ceremony on Oct. 24.
San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez said Valley veterans who served in the Vietnam-era will be recognized for their service and welcomed home during the ceremony at the San Benito Veterans Memorial Academy.
“Along with the national LULAC organization and Channel 4 and several restaurants, the school district, we are all partnering together to give Vietnam-era veterans that welcome home, good job, thank you for your service, recognition, that they did not get all those years ago,” Sanchez told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“Remember, these veterans were not welcomed home as heroes. People said Vietnam was the war that should not have happened. Yet, these men went and fought this war. Whatever the sentiment was, they did their duty.”
Sanchez said there will be a small parade at the Veterans Academy on Oct. 24. “Not only that. We have invited all the legislators and mayors in the Valley and they will be presenting the pins to the veterans. We have a video, songs, flags, and a social planned for them.”
Asked where the idea came from, Sanchez said: “The idea came from President Obama passing the proclamation that the United States had two years to recognize all of the Vietnam era veterans. There were certain organizations that were approved by the Pentagon to put on these tributes. So, LULAC reached out and we, the City of San Benito, said, yes, we will partner with you and do this for the Rio Grande Valley.”
Asked how many Vietnam-era veterans the Valley has, Sanchez said: “I am not sure of the exact number but I have been told that the Valley had more Vietnam era veterans, per capita, than any other place in Texas. I know we have a lot. We are expecting a lot if they all come.”
General Sanchez served in the United States Army from 1973, raising in rank to become commander of coalition ground forces in the U.S. led occupation of Iraq in 2001. He is a Distinguished Military Graduate of Texas A&I University, Kingsville, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of armor in the Regular Army in 1973.
In 1991, then Colonel Sanchez served as a battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm, successfully leading his battalion to Basra. Shortly after the Gulf War, Sanchez was promoted to Brigadier General and served as in various duties throughout the Army, according to Military.com website.
On July 10, 2001, he became commanding general of V Corps’ 1st Armored Division. He held that position for nearly two years before assuming command of the entire corps on June 14, 2003. On that date, he became commander of coalition ground forces in the U.S. led occupation of Iraq. During his command, he oversaw the firefight with Uday and Qusay Hussein and the eventual capture of Saddam Hussein, according to the website.
Event Chairman Victor Garza also serves as chairman of the San Benito Veterans Advisory Board. He said the tribute ceremony is in accordance with Public Law enacted in 2008 entitled the National Defense Authorization Act. This Act authorized the Secretary of Defense to conduct a program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
Garza said the Commemoration “is providing Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pins to Commemorative Partners for dignified public presentations to living U.S. military veterans who served during the Vietnam War period as a lasting memento of the nation’s thanks.” He said living United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are eligible to receive one lapel pin.
“We plan to thank and honor all Valley veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans,” Garza said.
The Tribute, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled at 6 p.m. and will feature a social hour, tributes from high-ranking military and elected officials and refreshments.
For more information, please call San Benito City Hall at 956-361-3800.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Gen. Ricardo Sanchez speaking with Rio Grande Valley veterans at a Veterans Hospital town hall meeting at the Regional Academic Health Center in August, 2017. (File photo: RGG/Joey Gomez)
PSJA student-design to be built for new Veterans Memorial in Alamo
Meanwhile, in other Veteran-related news, the City of Alamo in partnership with the Alamo Economic Development Corporation and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD hosted a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the new Veterans Memorial in Alamo.
The Veterans Memorial design was created by two PSJA Memorial Early College High School students and their teacher using a 3D printer.
Raul B. Garza, PSJA Memorial ECHS Architectural Design Dual Enrollment teacher, said the design first started as a class assignment between Mario Garcia Jr. and Josh Urbina, both PSJA Memorial ECHS Class of 2013 graduates. The PSJA graduates are currently in college and were unable to attend the ceremony. But, said Garza, they plan to be there for the grand opening.
“It feels great to soon see the design come to life,” said Garza. “We are now going to be able to honor veterans, especially those in Alamo and we couldn’t have done it without the help and support of our district for providing us with the equipment.”