THERMAL, Calif. - This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall, a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service.
Thermal resident and retired Marine Cpl. John Vargas said the ceremony held every five years, involves reading the names of the more than 58,000 service members killed during the war.
Vargas, who grew up in a military family, volunteered to honor those killed in the war.
"I grew up post-Vietnam, studying a lot about the war, as a very young man on my own and of course, a lot of us watched the movies, the action movies, growing up," said Vargas.
He served beside Vietnam veterans when it was his time to answer the call.
"I was in Saudi Arabia with Vietnam veterans, and these men had stayed there that long, so my kinship grew with them, my way of identifying with them in some way," said Vargas.
This year, Vargas answered a different call after seeing a tweet from the Vietnam Vet Memorial page.
He was selected as one of the many veterans around the country, who would go to Washington D.C., to read thousands of names of those who never came home from the war.
"It was raining a little bit, and I thought that was appropriate, kind of like the sky is weeping a little bit," said Vargas. "People were from all over the country that were there and they were embracing each other. They were showing respect to each other."
Vietnam veteran Mike Pierson said he's proud of his fellow Veterans of Foreign Wars member.
"Some of the names on that wall were killed at Pleiku, the air base I was at in 1965. So for John to want to honor Vietnam veterans, like myself, and particularly those on that wall who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, is a great honor."
Vargas said he'll always remember the trip honoring the nation's bravest.
"I thought it was wonderful that we can come together. We can unite behind some common cause and show support with each other and people could get along from a lot of different aspects of life."
Officials with the Desert Sands Unified School District released a statement on Vargas, an Indio High School graduate:
"Several Desert Sands Unified School District campuses were the site this week of recognition and remembrance ceremonies for our local veterans as the country celebrates Veterans Day. Knowing that one of our own, Cpl. John Vargas, an Indio High School graduate, class of 1990, represents all of the valley in the reading of those lost in Vietnam gives us great pride. Congratulation Cpl. John Vargas and thank you and your fellow members of the armed forces for your service."
A Veterans Day observance at the wall will be held Saturday at 1:00 p.m.
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