The “Home of Heroes” celebrated a very special Veterans Day with the rededication of a war memorial.
Hundreds gathered to mark the 11th hour at CSU-Pueblo.
An emotional ceremony paid tribute to all veterans past and present, and celebrated the newly renovated Southeast Asia Vietnam Memorial that was originally dedicated in 1969.
Now, 623 names are etched in gold on black granite, remembering all Colorado service men and women who were killed in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War era. Of those, 70 were from Pueblo County and 10 were students of CSU-Pueblo.
Its appearance is similar to that of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. All the names are displayed according to the branch of military in which they served.
On the memorial reads the words of President John F. Kennedy, “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid.”
With a ribbon cutting, 21 gun salute, cannon salute, laying of wreaths and two air-craft flyovers, it was a memorable day for veterans.
"I think it's a great tribute to all the vets, to each and every individual man and woman who have sacrificed so they can preserve the freedom which we all enjoy today,” said John Vigil, World War II and Korean War Veteran.
Manuela Valenzuela served a year in Vietnam as a Marine. He said it is still difficult to swallow how warriors were treated when they came home from that war. He says he and his brother had eggs thrown at them. Valenzuela says the hurt and pain is still there, but with memorials like this they can start to heal.
"I respect what the United States is doing for Vietnam vets to respect and honor their sacrifice and honor what we have done,” said Valenzuela.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton presented an American flag that was flown over the House of Representatives on the 10th anniversary of September 11. To the singing of “God Bless America” service men raised the flag over the memorial.
Tipton also presented an award to Sandra Adams. Adams is the widow of a Medal of Honor recipient. Her late husband Major William Adams served in the Army as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War. He made the ultimate sacrifice when his helicopter exploded while on a rescue mission.
Tipton says this memorial represents men and women like Adams who perform selfless feats of bravery.
“The thing I really appreciate is the fact that people who have given their lives for the freedom we enjoy today are not forgotten, that we do remember. And that they want to show their appreciation to the families,” said Adams.
A special POW-MIA ceremony was also held to the playing of “taps.” Two tables represented the POW or MIA soldier and their families, and the journey they go through.
Pueblo Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix also spoke at the ceremony. He reminded the crowd how President Dwight D. Eisenhower had once wondered, “What is it? Is there something in the water out there in Pueblo?”
Dix said, “No it’s not in the water. It’s the community.”
A number of other state and local leaders were in attendance including County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, a retired Air Force colonel who was the master of ceremonies.
University officials and local veterans’ organizations spent $86,000 renovating the memorial.