NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Thursday marked the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, which represents the end of the Vietnam War. A ceremony in Nacogdoches paid respect to the thousands who died in the decade-long conflict.
The Vietnam Veterans At Large saw that Vietnam veterans' families can share why April 30th is so important.
"On dawn of April 30, 1975 history says that the last U.S. Marine left the U.S. Embassy in Saigon thus ending the war of Vietnam," said Ramona Tutt, the cousin of US Marine Corps PFC Oscar P. Austin.
However, Austin never left the jungles of Vietnam for his native Sand Hill community in Nacogdoches County. He risked his life down for a friend not once, but twice.
"First, by leaving his fighting hole to help a fellow wounded Marine, he jumped between himself and the live grenade absorbing the impact," Tutt said. "Second, although wounded himself he came between the unconscious Marine and an enemy soldier's gunfire."
A destroyer was commissioned in honor of the Medal of Honor recipient in 2000. Austin's cousin knows why.
"He went into a service with the idea that he was following orders that would be best of his country, his self and to humanity in general," said Lottie Chatman, another of Austin's cousins.
Before the honors there were years of negativity. Navy veteran and Agent Orange victim Michael Neely is pleased attitudes have changed for unselfish reasons.
"When we come home we're not the heroes," Neely said. "It's the ones left behind."
One of those was Jeffery Smith, the husband of Barbara Jinkins.
"Jeffery was over there for only 16 days before he was killed," Jinkins said.
His bride, who could only speak her native German, was left in the U.S. with a baby girl. It was one life out of hundreds of thousands affected by the Vietnam War.
"So many lives changed from losing a family member to those missing in action to those coming home with wounds both seen and unseen," Tutt said. "For all those lest not forget."
Americans should not forget on the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War or any other day.
Arrangements are underway to name a section of State Highway 21 east where Private Austin grew up as the Oscar P. Austin Highway. This comes at least 46 years after Austin's death.