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04-30-2006, 23:59
Local newspaper online edition story LINK (http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0426veteran0426.html)
Vietnam vets honored
Phoenix hosts 3rd-annual Recognition Day so soldiers' sacrifices, stories aren't forgotten

Monica Alonzo-Dunsmoor
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Gunfire and mortars exploded around the hundreds of Marines trying to recapture Hue, a Vietnamese city, during the height of the Vietnam War.

That day in 1968 was a long one.

Arnold Gracia, a young Marine from south Phoenix, remembers the shrapnel raining down on him. He remembers the bullets. The adrenaline.

It all came back to him Tuesday night when Phoenix officials hosted the third-annual Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day to honor the sacrifices Gracia and other Vietnam veterans made.

Mayor Phil Gordon called the event the city's way of honoring the veterans.

"It just tugs at my heart that individuals went away from their families and some never came back," he said. "When they came back, they were treated so disrespectfully. This country owes them not only a debt of gratitude but also an apology."

Gracia, who shared his story before the event, joined the Marines in 1962 because his father and uncles were Marines.

"The Marines were the tough guys," he said. "And I wanted to be a tough guy."

It wasn't always easy to be tough when men around him were getting wounded or losing their lives.

"There are things you never forget," Gracia said. "Like losing your friend. You're surrounded by gunfire, and you can't get out. And all you can do is pray. People ask me, 'Were you scared?' Hell yeah, I was scared."

In 1968, Gracia was shot multiple times while in Vietnam.

He remembers the bullet ripping through his left shoulder, but the adrenaline pumping through him numbed the pain and he forged ahead.

He also remembers a bullet slamming into his face, tearing apart his lips and dropping him to the ground. A fellow Marine dragged him to safety behind the remnants of a tank.

"I tried to touch my mouth, but it was so numb," he said. "I could feel the blood, but I didn't know my teeth were gone."

He was 21 years old and badly wounded.

"It was very hard," said Gracia, now 59 years old and the commander of the American Legion Post 41. "But all I could think is, 'I'm here. I'm alive. I made it home.' "

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, also a Vietnam veteran, spoke to the audience of about 70 during the event and urged Vietnam veterans to break their silence and talk about the acts of heroism they witnessed on the battle fields.

"The media shamefully portrayed Vietnam veterans as baby-killers and druggies," Romley said. "But they never told the stories of the men who, under intense firefights, would go out to save their friend and they themselves would get killed."

"We Vietnam veterans can no longer remain silent," he said.

As more and more veterans of World War II pass away, Romley said, the Vietnam veterans would have to become the new vanguards so "never again shall this nation shamefully not respect the sacrifices of it veterans."

"History can not mischaracterize those sacrifices," he said. "Those of us who have looked into the eyes of a dying solider, we understand that sacrifice."

05-01-2006, 21:04
Excellent post...

Thank you...