AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been a long time coming, but on the grounds of the state Capitol this Saturday, the Texas Vietnam monument will finally be unveiled. The sculpture will be revealed at 10 a.m.
About 500,000 Texans served in Vietnam, and 3,417 died there. Just more than 100 Texas remain missing in action still today. The Texas casualties in that war are only exceeded by California.
Among the Texas MIAs is 25-year old Capt. Ron Forrester, a Marine aviator shot down Dec. 27, 1972, exactly one month before the peace treaty was signed. He left behind a daughter.
“I was just two when my dad was lost,” said Karoni Forrester. “I grew up hoping one day he would come home and I would get to know my dad.”
“Everyone was panicked and we waited to see if he was on the list of prisoners from Hanoi,” she said, recalling that era. “When he wasn’t we continued to wait. And then search for answers.”
Karoni is now co-chair of a national crusade of sorts, the National League of POW/MIA families.
But why do so many remain missing?
“The United States needs to do more,” Karoni said. “We need to increase the pace and scope. The Vietnamese at this point have very much said come in and get our business done over there.”
Two Vietnam vets who did make it home to Texas had a hand to play in Saturday’s events.
Robert Floyd was co-chairman of the committee behind the Texas monument.
“One of the lessons the country learned since then is to honor the soldier,” Floyd points out. “We may disagree with the politics of a war, but those guys and gals who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, thank goodness we have welcomed them back.”
An accompanying memorial, made up of the recreated dog tags of the 3,417 Texans who died, arrived in Austin on Thursday and will be shown in the capitol rotunda.
Watch this story from 2012 on the memorial monument:
It’s co-creator, Don Dorsey, will be among the thousands of vets expected for Saturday’s unveiling.
“We should turnout. No one honors us as much as we honor ourselves,” Dorsey says. “We’ve been Vietnam veterans a long time and we haven’t got much recognition.”
Families of those who served will realize some sense of settlement Saturday but it is difficult for MIA families.
“They just want closure so we can complete the grieving cycle,” Karoni Forrester said. “So we know our loved one is in the hands of God.”
She has been designated the Mistress of Ceremonies for Saturday’s dedication, which should draw thousands, including veterans’ families and VIPS.
“It will be great to be with so many veterans and give them a good welcome home,” Forrester said. “They didn’t receive that back then.”
The remains of a Michigan man were identified just last week, bringing the national total of MIAs to 1,642 Americans.