Vietnam vet grateful for parade
July 10, 2012 at 2:10 a.m.
Updated July 11, 2012 at 2:11 a.m.
EL CAMPO - The downpour camouflaged John Bubela's water-filled eyes on Tuesday afternoon.
The 78-year-old Louise resident heard rockets fly over his head and witnessed soldiers killed in Vietnam. Instead of flags and a parade waiting for him and the other soldiers, Bubela tucked his uniform away in fear.
War protesters mocked and attempted to spit on the now retired sergeant. "Of all the memories I have, the ones after the war were the worst," he said.
The father of three gazed at the caravan passing by Evans Park carrying the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. More than 100 motorcycles and trucks trudged through the puddles to get the memorial through U.S. Highway 59.
The granite replica contained 58,272 names representing the men and women who lost their lives in Southeast Asia.
For the remainder of the week, the traveling wall will be placed in El Campo across from Myatt Elementary School. Each day, volunteers will commemorate the heroes from Vietnam and other 20th century conflicts.
Bubela said the short-lived parade helps to wash away a half-a-century of pain. He was touched to get a glimpse of history.
"It hurts me more now, but this helps," he said.
Exhibit organizer Sarah Hudgins said the veteran celebration was long overdue. "The veterans are walking a little taller today," she said.
El Campo was scheduled to receive the wall in 2013, but the volunteers jumped at the chance to take advantage of an earlier showing. For five months, members of the community made preparations for the weeklong exhibit.
The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall was founded and incorporated in 1985 and sits 6-feet high and 300-feet wide.
Close to 75 other supporters braved the elements to tell the soldiers, "Welcome home." Some didn't seem to mind.
"It's raining, but we can weather it out," said Vietnam Veteran Donald Berglund. "It's a shame we haven't had one (parade) sooner."
Bubela knows people who died, but will not search for names individually, "This is for everyone," he said. The former technician inspector for helicopters changed his perspective.
"I was 23 years old and thought I was bulletproof," he said. Although serving in combat gave him a dose of his own mortality during his two tours.
During the time of the Vietnam War the soldiers fought abroad, and their families battled in the United States.
Dorothea Bubela, John Bubela's wife of 53 years, said she was harassed at her home with people knocking on her windows. "It was frightening," she said.
The doting couple were grateful to see soldiers getting their just due in praise. "This is unforgettable," said John Bubela, as he walked away.