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Gracias, Mijo...

Last Patrol

by: Patrick Camunes
(© 1998)


Preparing our column for the parade marchA group of veterans that called themselves the Last Patrol had walked from Dallas to the steps of the Alamo and brought together hundreds of Vietvet brothers, who deep down, sought their own personal welcome home. We prepared our banner and column for parade-march and walked in that parade, four abreast. The column stretched out for six city blocks and grew as we pulled in other Vietvets and supporters from the spectators as we walked along! This was the first time that many of us had even admitted to being a Vietnam veteran and here were thousand of people lining the streets cheering us on, by many of the comments that I heard from the sidelines, I'm sure that many of the spectators had also been touched by the Vietnam War in one way or another.

Getting banner prepared for marchBeing Hispanic, I was particularly touched by a comment an elderly lady was yelling out to all of us and that was, "Gracias, Mijo" which translated means, "Thank you, Son." Here was a woman that I didn't know, thanking us, as her sons and it touched many of us deeply and right at that moment in time, I was Welcomed Home. I walked the remainder of the parade with a misty vision through tear filled eyes, and I was not the only one.
As we reached the Alamo, the end of the parade route, there were groups of Ceremony in front of the Alamo Vietnam veterans rejoicing, while others stood away alone with their own thoughts. Many memories were awakened that day, many good and many bad, but all memories that had torn at our hearts and needed to come out. A crowd had also gathered for the ceremony and then Mayor Henry Cisneros' stirring Welcome Home message (I later met him briefly). Some bystanders stayed and just watched the veterans as if in disbelief---these weren't all drug-crazed, gun toting stereotyped Vietnam veterans that they had all seen in the movies and read about, but regular people, probably some that they even knew and actually showing emotions. This was probably as much an awakening for these people as it was for the Vietvet.
Pat with then, Mayor Henry Cisneros One thing that I do regret to this day is not going back and talking to the elderly lady that was thanking me as her son. I often wonder how Vietnam had touched her, and if maybe her son is one of the names on The Wall, and I feel guilty for not going back and comforting her. Her Gracias, Mijo burns in my mind and I can only pray that on that day, by her being there, a burden was lifted from her as it was for so many of us. All I can say is "Gracias" to her, wherever she may be, for the Welcome Home she gave so many that day.

Gracias, Mijo

APVNV Pat(Beanie)Camunes
D/4/31 196th Lt. Inf. Bde
Tay Ninh 12/1966-04/1967
Tam Ky 04/1967-12/67


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