Wofford's brother, Pvt. 1st Class Walter Griffin was awarded a Silver Star medal for accurately firing at Vietnamese Army force while wounded in a vulnerable position. His actions allowed his unit to regroup and evacuate the area.
Marcos said Griffin was one of the few that volunteered to go overseas and was not drafted in the town of Hawkins and was the only one who did not come back.
Almost 50 years after the Vietnam Conflict ended, East Texan African-American Veterans were recognized and thanked for their service in a special service organized by members of the community on Sunday.
Dr. Rodney Atkins, co-chairman of the second Texas African-American Soldiers Recognition Day, said last year, a group of churches came together to recognize the service of men who served in the 1940s and 1950s, or World War II and Korea. This year the group reached out to those who served in the 1960s.
The service, held at Liberty Baptist Church, 2506 N. Broadway, recognized about 150 veterans, Atkins said.
“Military men of the 1960s set the tone for the future of our country,” he said. “It was a full and complete integration, and whether or not they realize it, their successes there lead us to having an African-American commander-in-chief today.”
After the war, soldiers were not received by their country with open arms, and for many of them, it was the first time they were recognized for their sacrifice in a formal service, Atkins said.
“They did not get praise or recognition when they got back,” Marcos said. “That's why I'm here today. It's long overdue.”
Marcos, a Marines veteran, said his family has a proud lineage of military personnel. His grandfather served in World War II, his father in fought in the Korean War, and all four of his brothers served in the military. He said three fought in Vietnam and he and another brother served during the Cold War.
“Ranks and promotions — they were always looked over, yet they served proudly,” he said.
The Rev. Jessie McClendon said while the armed forces were fully integrated during the conflict, serving overseas was not easy for the young soldiers.
“Racism was alive and well in the 1960s,” he said in the ceremony. “You remember those times — the time of the civil rights (movement) was at its peak. I want to say to all of those men and women that served I want to salute (you), to thank you for going to Vietnam and be willing to put your life on the line for this country.”
During the ceremony, the names of fallen military members were called aloud, and the group of service men stood to salute them.
Veterans who received metals of valor were recognized and given a special gift in the ceremony.
The Jarvis Christian College choir harmonized a melody honoring each branch of service and praised God with a tune arranged by Jarvis Professor Hugh Davis called “I Open My Mouth to the Lord and I Won't Turn Back.”
Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Retired Maj. Gen. John Phillips and gave the keynote address. Phillips spoke of the troubles facing the African-American community — violence and the dissolving of the nuclear family within the culture.
Although, he said the African-American veterans of the past served in every major war from the Revolutionary War to the present, he cited the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry fought bravely in the Civil War, leading to the first man of color to be presented with a metal of honor. In World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen were the most requested group to escort bombers into battle because they never lost one.
Phillips said as veterans of past wars served as trailblazers for powerful leaders in the future, the present community can work to secure a safe future for its youth.
“If we look back at these great men and women who we have honored today — it was their ability to overcome adversity, it was their dedication to purpose, it was their relentless pursuit of excellence, it was their wiliness to sacrifice for the greater good — and we need to rekindle that spirit,” Phillips said. “What better role models than the men and women we have honored today?”