|In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, civilian and military attendees of the American Heroes Air Show paid tribute to names on the American Veterans Traveling Vietnam War Memorial on Camp Mabry Saturday, April 16. The exhibit was just one part of the AHAS, a decades old event held in Austin to honor veterans and currently serving military members.
Story by Sgt. Melissa Bright
AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Police Department and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services paired with the Texas Military Forces to host a naturalization ceremony April 16, during the American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.
The ceremony is just one element of the two-day festival that also featured static displays, multiple military demonstrations and family activities designed to increase awareness within the Austin community of it's substantial military heritage.
"This is the second year we have been able to hold this ceremony during American Heroes weekend," said Wuthipong 'Tang' Tantaksinanukij, a corporal with Austin Police Department's Air Operations Unit. "In 2010, Jim Paules invited us to hold a ceremony here during their American Heroes weekend and we were able to swear-in 13 service members from all five branches of service. We had double that number this year and hit all branches of service again except for the Coast Guard."
Paules, president of the American Heroes Aviation Network, coordinated with the founders of the American Veterans Traveling Tribute to bring a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial stretching over 380 ft long from end to end to serve as the backdrop for the ceremony.
"My husband Edmond was in Vietnam in 1968 and again in 1970 to 1971," said Alma Croix as they walked in front of the wall. "I think being able to see this exhibit in Austin is just wonderful."
"The first time we saw the wall in San Antonio I was so overwhelmed," she said. "I couldn't even speak the names of the friends we lost, I had to write them down for the assistants to look up."
The 80 percent-scale replica of the Washington, D.C., Vietnam Memorial Wall displays all 58,253 names of the men and women killed in the Vietnam War.
"It is an honor for us to provide our Vietnam Memorial Wall as the backdrop for members of the military as they recite their oath of allegiance," said Don Allen, executive director of the AVTT and retired U.S. Army Special Forces.
The AVTT is a veteran-owned project that travels the country to provide a forum for communities to honor, respect and remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
The wall was the perfect reminder of what it takes to be American for the 25 service members and military one spouse representing 15 different countries sworn in by the Honorable Lee Yeakei, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas.
"I am very excited to be able to do this but today is even more special for me because I was able to do a rubbing of my uncle's name for my mom," said Marine Cpl. Alejandro Mascorro.
"We’re proud to be part of this event at the Texas Military Force’s historic Camp Mabry while we honor all Veterans and those currently serving by letting them know they will never be forgotten," Allen added.
"This is start of my new life," said Army Spc. Jeanette Ponce, with Charlie Company of the 36th Infantry Division in Austin. "I am just so excited to be here today finally fulfilling my dream."