News Column

Texans who died in Vietnam honored in traveling exhibit

May 15, 2014

By Janet Van Vleet, Abilene Reporter-News, Texas

May 15--It's simple and still. No moving parts, no interactive stations.

Just thousands of dog tags hanging straight and true.

These bright, shiny metal identification tags never hung around the neck of a young soldier, were never worn into battle.

The dog tags represent the 3,417 Texans who died in Vietnam between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s.

Each tag was hand-embossed by Vietnam veteran Don Dorsey, a former Marine, of Austin. The tags are the focal point of the traveling Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit, currently on display at the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum in Abilene. The exhibit will run through June 2.

Scattered throughout the glittering silver tags are black tags representing Texans who are missing in action. A blank tag honors fallen soldiers whose identities are unknown.

Duplicates of the tags have been entombed in the base of the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument, which was dedicated March 29 in Austin.

A small replica of the monument accompanies the dog tag exhibit. Each of the five soldiers represents the ethnicities of the majority of Texas troops in Vietnam, said Jennifer Lenches, project coordinator for the local museum. There is a Mexican-American, a Native American, an Asian-American, an African-American and a Caucasian soldier, she said.

Lenches said she learned about the exhibit and was asked if she was interested in it coming to Abilene.

"I had two questions: 'How big is it?' and 'How much will it cost?'" she said.

The Community Foundation of Abilene donated some money for the exhibit and the rest came from Abilene businesses, organizations and individual donors, Lenches said.

"It's all due to Abilene getting behind it," she said. "Abilene wanted to see it come here.


(c)2014 the Abilene Reporter-News (Abilene, Texas)

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Source: Abilene Reporter-News (TX)

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