TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Each year, local churches sponsor a program to recognize and thank the African-American veterans of different decades. Sunday, all eyes were on the 1970's as East Texas came together to honor those who served in the Vietnam War.
Veteran after veteran was presented with a certificate and a medallion.
One of those veterans was Ernest L. Dews of Whitehouse. He shared memories from his days in Vietnam.
"We just went up and down the Mekong River... hadn't moved 100 yards every night... and there are some places we went that are secrets," Dews recalled.
For Dews, military service was something most of the men in his family did. He says Sundays program brought back memories of his time in the Navy, and made him thankful for things he hadn't thought twice about back then.
"I had a job when I left. When I came back, I still had that job so I didn't have to worry about what [veterans] now may have to go through," explained Dews.
However, service in the 70's -- and the decades before that -- presented challenges for many African American soldiers.
"They left to fight for a country that quite frankly wasn't treating them right. They came home, after serving, to a country that still wasn't treating them right, but still they served with honor and they served with dignity," said Roderick White, a U.S. Army Veteran of the 1990's.
White said the honor and dignity of the African American soldiers before him paved the way for his success in the armed forces.
"I was never disrespected. I was never subject to mistreatment by my fellow soldiers or superior officers. The people that I was in charge of always respected me, and it was easier for them to respect me," he explained.
Sunday, East Texans gathered to remind those soldiers that their sacrifices have not been forgotten. The ceremony was the third annual Texas African American Soldiers Recognition Day Program. Last year, they honored the soldiers of the 50's and the year before that, they honored the African American soldiers of the 40's.
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