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At 8:15 a.m. Monday, the American Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1 of Brownsville will hold its 38th annual Memorial Day observance honoring the 28 men who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War in a ceremony at Hanna Early College School.
The names of the 28 veterans, who all attended Brownsville High School at one time or another, are engraved on a plaque that is mounted in front of the school, which was Brownsville High School until being renamed Hanna in August 1974, said Rogelio A. Rocha, America Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1 commander.
“This was during the 60s, so it was called Brownsville High School. All of them attended Brownsville High School at one time or another, whether it was on Palm Boulevard or at the present location, which is now Hanna. But it was Brownsville High School at that time until 1974. That was the last class that graduated from Brownsville High School before it was changed to Homer Hanna High School in August of ‘74,” Rocha said as he recalled the chapter’s formation.
“The organization American Vietnam Veterans Chapter 1 started in the late 70s, early 80s, after the war had ended and nothing was being done at the time, so veterans decided to get together and form this organization,” Rocha said, pointing out that AVV Chapter 1 is a local organization, not national.
“In the early 80s, the members at that time decided to come up with this idea of having the plaque with all the names. My older brother’s name is on there and our neighbor’s name is on the plaque also. They came home one week apart. But they had fund-raisers. …Once the funds were received, it was decided to install it there at Hanna, because by this time it was Hanna and they all had attended there at one time or another. After that, every Memorial Day we’ve been having these ceremonies to honor these men who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Rocha said.
The ceremony starts at 8:15 because after a few years members realized it gets hot quickly at the end of May in Brownsville.
“Whoever was principal at that time would put up a tent, a couple of tents, because of the turnout we used to have. But now there’s other ceremonies going on. We do ours at 8:15 because when we finish we go to the VFW at 9 o’clock, they have their flag raising ceremony and then from there our organization goes to … I think this is the 24th annual Silent March. We’ve been helping out Tiny Barrientes. He’s the one that puts it together. We’ve been with him I think 20 years,” Rocha said.
“There’s other organizations, but this is what we do. … We invite veterans, families of the deceased and the public. Our agenda is we give a little speech, sometimes we have a speaker, and we give a brief history of why the plaque is there, and then we have the readings of the fallen comrades. When I read them I read them in the order that we lost them,” he said.
“Brownsville got its first notification, it was 26 May 1966 when the first casualty from Brownsville was reported and that was followed by 27 more. The final one was in 1972. There’s more veterans here from Brownsville that were killed, but their home of record was not Brownsville. Wherever they signed up, that was their home of record. These are the ones that were born and raised in Brownsville,” Rocha said.
The 24th annual Memorial Day Silent March begins at 10 a.m. sharp from the corner of the H.E.B. at Boca Chica and Central Boulevards.
Participants will then walk along Central to Veterans Park next to the Brownsville Public Library main branch, where there will be a 21-gun salute, with refreshments provided by Cobbleheads, the Law Offices of Erin Garcia, the Brownsville Marathoners Running Club and the Knights of Columbus.
Ceremonies will be conducted by the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans Club, and City of Brownsville Parks and Recreation, according to a posting by Cobbleheads Bar and Grill, 3154 Central Blvd.