Veterans Group Undertakes Care of Unique Piece of History
BROWNSVILLE – A group of veterans in Cameron County came together to protect an irreplaceable symbol of history from the Vietnam War.
In 1975, United States Marines took with them two American flags during the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.
One of them was posted outside the embassy and given to the U.S. ambassador. The other American flag was posted inside the embassy.
That ceremonial flag is considered the last U.S. flag to fly in Vietnam.
These days, Rio Grande Valley veterans in Brownsville have made it their mission to protect it.
Inside an IBC Bank vault, people will find a one of a kind keepsake: an American flag with a special story.
“We’re the caretakers of it and we’ll take care of it until the day we die,” Tony Garcia said.
It’s the flag Marines were able to rescue as Vietnamese inside the U.S. Embassy tried to destroy it.
“This is where the South Vietnamese tried to rip it. Here, this is where they tried to pour flammable fluid on it to burn it but they couldn’t do it. And this yellow here, it’s my understanding, according to the man that rescued it, that’s urine,” Garcia explained about the flag.
The Vietnamese were upset about not being evacuated, but before they could destroy the flag, a Marine lieutenant came to its rescue. He fought off the Vietnamese and saved the flag.
The lieutenant kept the flag for years until he gave it to a veteran from La Feria, who in turn gave it to Garcia.
“We thought at one time about getting laundered but we thought it would lose its value. So we have it in its original condition it came out of Vietnam,” Garcia said.
He founded the organization Warriors United in Arms, a non-profit group made up of veterans that helps other veterans. In addition to assisting veterans in need, the group also cares for the flag.
They share its story and show it to the public.
“We got it. We preserved it. We built the case that holds it in place,” Manuel Mares said.
“We’re holding it for every veteran that served in the U.S. military. For every serviceman and servicewoman that served in Vietnam that didn’t come back. It’s just an honor,” Roger Garcia said.
The University of Texas offered to buy the flag, but the Valley group said no. They want the historical flag to stay in South Texas where its story can live on through Warriors United in Arms.
“That flag represents the 50,000 plus people who fought and died in this war. The fact that we have that flag to keep their memory alive is why we are so covetous of that flag,” Larry Jokl said.
“Hopefully we pass it on to a younger generation. We fought for this flag and we love the flag. We respect it. We show it the respect it deserves and the respect it earns,” Tony Garcia said.
The Brownsville group displays the flag at special ceremonies and events throughout the year.
This December, the group will make their longest drive with the flag yet.
They’re taking it to a college football game in Fort Worth, the Armed Forces Bowl. They’ll display the flag outside the stadium and they also hope to have it on hand for pre-game ceremonies on the field.