Vietnam veterans to be honored at East Texas Salute event

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Patriotic pride will return to the city of Bullard, as The American Freedom Museum will take time to honor the sacrifices made by veterans at the upcoming East Texas Salute 2018 event, to be held 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12, on the museum’s grounds, located on the campus of The Brook Hill Upper School.

“The East Texas Salute provides the opportunity for the citizens and students of East Texas to show their appreciation for the sacrifices of our military men and women, to acknowledge their courage, and to show them the honor and support they have earned,” said Jan Hommel, director of the American Freedom Museum.

According to Hommel, the 2018 East Texas Salute event will pay honor to all veterans, particularly to those who fought in the War in Vietnam.

“This year’s event is as an expression of heartfelt gratitude to our aging veterans, to the men and women who fought in Vietnam,” said Hommel. “Vietnam veterans represented 9.7 percent of their generation, with 2,709,918 Americans serving in uniform in Vietnam.”

The East Texas Salute 2018 event will feature several historical, patriotic, educational, and fun events for the public, both young and old, including a patriotic parade, free admission to the American Freedom Museum, the American Veterans Traveling Tribute Traveling Vietnam Wall, the Texas Veterans Classic Car Show, a musical performance, military aircraft flyover, and more.

Hommel hopes the event will serve as a celebration for Vietnam veterans, a group of American war heroes whom many believe did not receive the “welcome home” from Americans as they deserved.

“Few soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War were greeted at airports and train stations with flowers and messages of “thank you” like our military men and women returning home today are welcomed; in fact, some were spat on.” said Hommel. “At this year’s East Texas Salute, we will spend the day honoring this special group of veterans and their families, letting them know that their service for our country is appreciated and that many people here in East Texas are proud of them and want to shake their hands and thank them for their service.”

One of the main events at the East Texas Salute will be the patriotic parade, which will begin at Stewart Family Funeral Home, located on 7525 Old Jacksonville Highway in Tyler.

According to East Texas Salute parade organizer Mike Balfay, the parade route will be filled with a large number of military vehicles, while a military helicopter flies overhead, all the way to The Brook Hill School’s driveway.

“We are looking forward to a great parade this year,” said Balfay. “We’ll probably have 40-50 vehicles that will assemble here before the parade and travel together to the starting point at 7 a.m. with a full escort. We also have the Sheriff’s Department, the Patriot Guard Riders, the Christian Motorcycle Association, and the Blue Knights leading the parade of approximately 60 military vehicles full with veterans. Flying above the parade from start to finish will be a Green Beret Huey helicopter.”

All parade participants need to arrive at the starting point between 7:30 - 7:45 a.m. No vehicles can, personal or military, can be left at the business; it is recommended that veterans needing a ride to meet at Brook Hill and ride in starting at 7 a.m.

Both lanes of Old Jacksonville Highway (Farm-to-Market 2493) will be shut down for the two miles parade, with the convoy pulling into Brook Hill around 8:45 a.m.

Balfay will have a large number of Vietnam-era military vehicles and weapons featured back on the Brook Hill campus, including, among others, a 105mm M101A1 howitzer, scout tank, and Bell 47 helicopter, as well as a number of local emergency response vehicles, including fire trucks and medical helicopters.

After the parade, attendees will enjoy a ceremony paying special recognition to the Vietnam veterans, as well as the unfurling of a large American flag, military vehicle presentation, and a veterans ceremony with speech by keynote speaker and Vietnam veteran Don Allen. Also included in the ceremony will be a performance by East Texas Men in Harmony.

Included in the East Texas Salute 2018 event will be the AVTT Traveling Vietnam Wall, an 80 percent replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The replica wall features all 58,300 names of the soldiers who died in the conflict.

Another attraction to this year’s East Texas Salute event will be the Texas Veterans Classic Car Show, held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., which will feature an estimated 160-200 pre-1973 cars and trucks exclusively. A number of awards for the car show event will be presented to participants at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Registration for the Texas Veterans Classic Car Show is $20, including a free t-shirt and lunch. For more information about the Texas Veterans Classic Car Show, call Balfay at (903) 894-1041 or email mikebalfay@gmail.com.

Other events to take place at the East Texas Salute 2018 include a musical performance by “Mouse and the Traps” Rock ‘n Roll band, fire power demonstration, children’s activities, exhibitors and vendors, free admission to the American Freedom Museum, and more.

A complimentary lunch will be served to all attendees immediately after the ceremony Saturday, including food donated by local businesses such as Chick-Fil-A, Diary Queen, Brookshire’s, Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola.

For more information about the East Texas Salute 2018, call Hommel at (903) 894-5000 or visit www.americanfreedommuseum.org.

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