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Eric Cantu Guest Speaker at Veterans Memorial Dedication

Vietnam veteran Eric Cantu made Kinston proud when he served as the keynote speaker Saturday morning. Despite the chilly winds, the crowd was already mingling an hour before the ceremony, to the sounds of band music playing patriotic songs. The Legion Riders of American Legion Post 49 rode in on their motorcycles and presented the flag. The location was the Walter B. Jones Town Common, behind the Farmville Municipal Building. Veterans and supporters gathered to dedicate the new Veterans Memorial. It is impressive to see and worth the short drive straight down Highway 258 to downtown Farmville.

Before and after the ceremony, there was much shaking of hands, and there was comraderie. David Gay, the emcee, noted that in January 1978, 15 veterans met in Washington, D.C. to form the Vietnam Veterans Organization. Now, a monument to our brave men and women stands in the nation's capitol. More than 2,750,000 Americans served in the Vietnam war. When Cantu took the podium, he said that veterans comprise 3.3 percent of the adult population in our country, and the purpose for the event was to honor heroes, past and present, for their sacrifices. He continued, "They all possessed courage, pride, and determination, all qualities required to serve a calling bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways."

Cantu quoted several phrases from President Obama's remarks made this past Memorial Day, when he recognized the 50-Year Observation of the Vietnam War. Obama said it is time to tell the story of generations of service members who won every major battle and never surrendered. Cantu emphasized, "The most important success was our willingness to look out for each other. Vietnam veterans have fought to have diseases such as PTSD, Agent Orange, and other illnesses recognized and properly addressed by the Veterans Administration." Cantu ended by saying,"Never again will veterans be abandoned and not adequately welcomed home and shown gratitude. Returning soldiers need to be told they did their jobs honorably and welcomed home. Our veterans celebrations are a small spark in the flame of pride that burns across the nation today."

Cantu is a leader in the Salute to America's Veterans organization which will sponsor the Veterans Parade on November 10th at 11 a.m. on Heritage Street in Kinston. The public is invited to come out and pay tribute to all veterans and to view more details at www.salutevets.org.

Evelyn Dove, former USAF JAG Officer