Special celebration planned for Valley's Vietnam vets

A Rio Grande Valley veteran opens up about his experiences returning home from the Vietnam war and how it wasn't the homecoming he expected.

It was a bloody war.

"There's things that I remember that I don't want to remember," said Vietnam veteran Rey Oropez.

Officials estimate that 1.1 million lives were lost.

"I was scared," he said. "Very scared."

Over 74,000 casualties were from the United States.

A total of 144 soldiers from the Valley were killed in action. Those that survived didn't exactly get a warm welcoming.

"Society was not too good with us," said Oropez.

The Valley veteran said he served two tours in Vietnam.

He said when he returned from the war, people treated him like he had the plague.

"I couldn't figure out why were they acting that way with us," said Oropez.

He said it got to the point where he couldn't even wear his uniform to travel.

He said he doesn't know why Vietnam veterans were treated that way, but he thinks it had something to do with politics.

"If you have a problem with the government, you have a problem with the government." said Oropez. "It's not us. We're not the ones making those decisions. We're just defending what we're supposed to defend."

In April, the Valley is about to host the biggest ceremony they've ever had honoring veterans.

Hidalgo County Veterans director Emilio De Los Santos said this honor is long overdue.

"A lot of them if we wait any longer we might not be here," said De Los Santos.

He said each day 390 Vietnam veterans die.

"So now's the time to actually get something done for them before they're passed on," he said.

Oropez said he's glad people have come to realize the sacrifice these veterans made.

"And for that i'm very appreciative and i feel great in being an American," said Oropez.

Around 10,000 people are expected to be in the Valley to celebrate these heroes on April 9th

Part of the celebration called "Operation Welcome Home" will include a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

For details of the celebration head to this website or click here for the schedule.