Company honors employees who defended nation (video)
June 29, 2012 at 1:29 a.m.
Updated June 30, 2012 at 1:30 a.m.
Vietnam veteran James Barnard has become a household name with VCS Companies.
Some refer to him as "Uncle James," and after 27 years, he's earned the title.
The 65-year-old technician gazes through a magnifying glass every day to repair two-way radios.
Working with the intricate parts may require patience, but Barnard takes pride being able to fix things.
He loves working with customers and keeping those around him in stitches.
The El Campo native who served in the Army 1st Air Calvary lost friends in 1968.
Forty-four years later, he said his tour of duty was difficult to describe and summarize.
"No one wins a war," he said.
When he returned home, Barnard spent three years adjusting to civilian life and learning to cope.
"That's history, it's behind me," he said. "It's time to move on."
The humorous radio repairman didn't mind sharing war stories on Friday afternoon.
For the past two years, VCS has honored employees who are military veterans. Of the company's 50 employees, 11 are veterans. Ten were present to be honored.
Barnard said he appreciated his employers for the recognition on the verge of Independence Day.
"They put vets at the forefront who fought and died for this country," he said.
Before the ceremony, 10 American flags perfectly folded lay on a table. The 11th veteran was on vacation and will be honored later.
Each of the flags had flown in the recent Field of Honor. The company purchased each in the employees' names.
Tears filled company vice president Kelly Henke's eyes as she embraced the employees receiving flags.
"Thank you. It's something we should tell you every day, but we don't," she said.
The company honors the veterans six times a year, but Friday's ceremony is the most formal, Henke said.
Honorees also received other gifts that followed a patriotic theme, including a photo album, keychain and a ring box.
For the celebration the company provided barbecue meats and the other employees brought side dishes.
"We don't ask them (the vets) to bring anything. It's their day," said Lynda Parma, marketing coordinator.
After the prayer and presentation, the close-knit group gathered around the table, shared their love of country and jokes.
Radio technician Randy Beltran served as a U.S. Marine and was stationed in Kosovo, Japan, and Turkey during his five-year stint.
The 32-year-old El Campo native joined the military after high school and trained under an airborne unit.
Beltran, a father of two, has worked with the communications company for nine years and is grateful to his employer for the commemorative day.
"It feels good to be honored and to work for a place that makes the effort," he said.
Barnard became the center of media attention at the lunchtime ceremony.
He took his fame in stride, "I'll be ready to sign autographs," he said. Everyone roared with laughter.