- Associated Press - Saturday, March 29, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A monument unveiled on the Texas Capitol grounds represents an appreciation for the sacrifices of Vietnam War veterans, Gov. Rick Perry told a large gathering Saturday.

Perry spoke near the Vietnam Veterans Monument for an event coinciding with the 41st anniversary of the last U.S. troops leaving South Vietnam. About a half-million Texans served in the war, with more than 3,400 losing their lives and 105 still missing in action.

The monument on the northeast side of the Capitol grounds joins others honoring Texans who have fought in other wars, dating back to the Texas Revolution.

Perry said the newest monument is a “reminder of what is noble and good about the human spirit.”

“It will stand as a declaration that in Texas, we understand how blessed we are to have warriors ready to step forward and draw a line between us and those who would do us harm,” he said.

Perry spoke of the contributions of Vietnamese who fought alongside American soldiers, with many later obtaining U.S. citizenship and settling in Texas, he said.

The 5,500-pound monument was approved by lawmakers following legislation submitted by state Rep. Wayne Smith and state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, both Vietnam veterans.

“Most of our men and women who fought in Vietnam never received a hero’s welcome or recognition for our service to our country and state,” Smith said. “With today’s dedication, we can finally say, welcome home and thanks for your sacrifice.”

Private donations matched by the Texas Historical Commission led to the casting and placement of the 14-foot-tall bronze structure on a granite base. It features five men of various ethnicities representing the five military branches.

More than 3,400 dog tags were placed inside the monument, representing each of the Texans who died or are missing in action.

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