Austin Bus Trip to the TCVVM and Texas State Cemetery on 11-14-2015
Report by Dana Sternadel
[posted on: 1-13-2015]

Members of Texas VVA Chapter 1069 make a 2nd bus trip to Austin Texas, in November of 2015 to visit the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument (TCVVM) and later in the day, the group also visited the nearby Texas State Cemetery .

Chapter 1069 traveled to Austin recently to visit the TCVVM and the Texas State Cemetery. In the above photo, members of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 1069 listen as chapter president Leonard Sternadel (center), makes comments about the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument (TCVVM). Also shown next to the monument, in the center, wearing a brown jacket, is Robert Floyd, chairman of the TCVVM committee. Chapter 1069 would like to thank Robert and the other TCVVM committee members for coming out and speaking to our group - it was greatly appreciated by all.

Eighteen months after the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument was dedicated, local Vietnam veterans returned to the capitol grounds in Austin to revisit the monument. "It was so crowded at the dedication last year", said chapter president Leonard Sternadel. "There were more than 5,000 people there and we couldn't see that well. That day, on the way back home, we made a commitment to come back, and so we did".

CLICK HERE to read about the chapter's 1st trip to the TCVVM's dedication ceremony in 2014

The Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument was the idea of Robert Floyd, a Vietnam veteran who walked the Capitol grounds for years before realizing there was no memorial for Vietnam veterans. After all, there was a memorial for World Wars I and II, the Korean War, even the Alamo and Pearl Harbor, but no Vietnam War. Floyd met with some colleagues he thought might be interested; he then formed a committee to give some serious attention to his proposal. The year was 2003. After years of design, fundraising, legislative approval, and construction, the monument was dedicated March 29, 2014.

VVA Chapter 1069 member, Ron Miller of El Campo said the visit to the monument gave him reflection of the war's past. "I didn't know a lot of Texans who died over there; most of the ones I knew were from other states," he said. "Visiting the monument made me think of all of them."

Built as a permanent honor for all Texans who fought in the Vietnam War, the monument is also a memorial for those who didn't return home. Entombed inside the monument are the dog tags of 3,417 Texans who lost their lives to the war. Standing atop the 14-foot high monument are five bronze figures depicting an infantry patrol in action. Dubbed "The Dawn Patrol", it includes a wounded veteran, medic, radio telephone operator, combat infantry soldier, and sniper. The figures represent the racial diversity of the Texans who fought, displaying a Caucasian, Hispanic American, African American, Asian American, and Native American.

"It's a beautiful monument", says VVA chapter 1069 member, Frankie Laitkep, of Wharton. "Anyone looking at it can learn a lot about the war, but its design is really special to combat veterans since they understand and can connect with what really went on over there."

VVA Chapter 1069 officer, John Steelman of El Campo agrees. "It was a great visit for me because not only was my wife there, but my daughters, their husbands and my granddaughter also came. For years, the girls knew that I was in Vietnam, but I never talked about it. Seeing this monument gives them something to understand and learn from."

During Saturday's visit, VVA Chapter 1069 members were given personalized accounts of the monument's project by four of the committee members who were responsible for its creation. All volunteers from Austin, they detailed the history of the bronze sculpture, which was cast and bronzed at the Deep in the Heart Foundry in Bastrop. They spoke about their determined attention to detail in the design of the monument and how they collected original uniforms and equipment from veterans of the war so the foundry could recreate an authentic display. One story recounted a visit to the foundry by an Army medic, who told designers the scissors in the monument's medic's pocket were not the ones used in Vietnam; he returned with the scissors he'd used in Vietnam for them to change the design. Another told of a pair of combat boots given to the foundry for design use; one of the boots had shoelaces that were torn and tied back together; that same design was duplicated on the monument's combat soldier.

The photos below were taken at the TCVVM, located on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, in Austin, Texas. Much thanks to chapter members, Paul Francoeur, John Steelman, Dana Sternadel and Ronnie Miller for providing the photos.

Members of VVA Chapter 1069 pose in front of the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument. In the background is the Texas State Capitol.

VVA Chapter 1069 members encircle the Monument and pause for a moment of silence.

After members heard from speakers about the monument's history, they took time to view the monument up close and see its intricate design. Pictured directly in front are chapter member, Harold Peikert and his wife. Pictured with his hand on the monument, is chapter officer (Treasurer/Secretary), John Steelman, along with his wife.

The chapter officers would like to thank all those members and spouses who attended this function.

Above photo shows two of VVA chapter 1069's officers. On the left, John Steelman, chapter Treasurer & Secretary. On the right, Leonard Sternadel, chapter president. Both officers are residents of El Campo, Texas and were the key veterans in the formation of VVA Chapter 1069.

VVA chapter 1069 is based in El Campo, Texas and as of 2016, is still the youngest VVA chapter (4 years old) in the nation, with over 80 members. For more information regarding the VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America), please visit the VVA National website.

Above is another photo showing the chapter members in a moment of silence while surrounding the Monument.

After visiting the TCVVM, VVA chapter members then took a guided tour of the Texas State Cemetery, the final resting place for governors, politicians and other legendary Texans. "I had no idea some of the people who are buried there", said Sternadel. "Tom Landry, Darrell Royal, Dr. Red Duke; you don't ever think about where they're buried."

American sniper Chris Kyle was also laid to rest in the cemetery; his simple grave marker has yet to be replaced with a headstone. One local citizen, Jack G. Fisk, is buried there since he served in the House of Representatives from 1951 to 1955. Also honored are the Texans who died in the World Trade Center attack; included in the 9/11 Monument are two unaltered steel columns from Ground Zero.

The photos below were taken at the Texas State Cemetery...

Above photo shows chapter members arriving at the Texas State Cemetery. Also shown in the photo is the monument dedicated to Medal of Honor winners.

Above photo shows all Medal of Honor recipients' names engraved into the monument. Note the engraved name, Roy P. Benavides. Later in his life, Mr. Benavides was a Wharton County, Texas, resident.

Above photo: Last Resting Place - VVA Chapter 1069 President Leonard Sternadel pauses for a moment at the grave of Jack Gordon Fisk, a Louise, Texas native who served the nation during World War II and Wharton County as a state representative.

Jack Fisk served the nation during World War II and also served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1951 to 1955

Also on the grounds of the Texas State Cemetery is a monument (above photo) honoring all those Texans who served in the Vietnam War.

The Monument also honors all the families who lost loved ones during the war.

Above photo shows the engravings at the entrance to the 9/11 Memorial at the Texas State Cemetery.

Above photo shows the newest Monument in the cemetery that honors the Texans who died in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack; included in the 9/11 Monument are two unaltered damaged steel columns taken from Ground Zero of the World Trade Center.

Above photo shows the two damaged steel columns that were shipped from 9/11 World Trade Center disaster and placed within the 9/11 Monument for display.

CLICK HERE to visit the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument website

CLICK HERE to watch a video of Robert Floyd talking about the TCVVM,

CLICK HERE to visit the Texas State Cemetery website

CLICK HERE to learn more about Roy P. Benavides

CLICK HERE to learn more about Jack Gordon Fisk

CLICK HERE to read about the chapter's 1st trip to the TCVVM's dedication ceremony in 2014

CLICK HERE to visit the VVA National website