From WWII to Vietnam: New Generation of Veterans Attend H.E.A.R.T.S. Banquet

Courtesy of: Liesa Hackett

On Monday, Nov. 11 a Veterans Day banquet was held in the Walker County Storm Shelter to honor those who have served or even made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. 

This year, attendees and event coordinators alike noted the changing landscape and history of this 25-year-old tradition. 

“The first time we did [the banquet] was in the mall when we were there,” event coordinator Charlotte Oleinik said. “It was just something that we wanted to do to honor veterans on Veterans Day.”

The banquet is sponsored by the H.E.A.R.T.S. Veterans Museum as a fundraising effort. There was a silent auction and a keynote speech from Sam Houston State University’s professor of military science,Joe Contreras. 

Executive Director Tara Burnett noted that due to the decrease in the number of older World War II veterans, the Vietnam era veterans make up the largest presence at the banquet. The difference of view between the two generations is apparent.

“That’s what changed the way they wanted to do Veterans Day this year,” Burnett said. “They’ve seen so many of their friends that they’ve gone through with pass on. They want to start celebrating their service.”

The veterans agreed that the Veterans Day banquet should now be seen as a celebration, while Memorial Day is still regarded as a formally structured event honoring fallen soldiers.

“It’s a whole new set [of veterans],” Oleinik said. “It’s now our Vietnam veterans. The Korean and World War II veterans who started it wanted things done a certain way, and you must change with the times. Eventually the Afghanistan and Iraq veterans will want to take over, but right now they are not ready to talk about their experiences.”

The H.E.A.R.T.S. Veterans Museum puts on frequent events to support local veterans and their families.

“It means a lot to the community and it means a lot to the veterans to have this,” Oleinik said. “It’s really to honor veterans and to celebrate the fact that they came back even though they left a lot of their comrades behind.”

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