VETERANS DAY

Miami salutes Vietnam, Bay of Pigs vets

 

Veterans Day events

Here are some of South Florida’s commemorations planned for Monday.

9 a.m.-noon: Miami Beach celebrates with a parade south down Washington Avenue from 17th Street with 10:30 ceremony featuring a parachute team demo and helicopter at Flamingo Park Baseball Stadium, 15th Street and Michigan Avenue.

9-11:30 a.m.: Surfside marks the day with Mayor Daniel Dietch serving as emcee, a presentation of colors, local Scout troops and guest speakers. Light refreshments will be served at 10 a.m. Veterans Park, 8791 Collins Ave. For more information, call 305-866-3635 or visit www.townofsurfsidefl.gov.

9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.: Miami Seaquarium grants free admission for the day to all veterans, active duty military, police, fire and EMT personnel. A valid military or first responder ID must be provided. Accompanying family members, up to five, will receive a discounted admission of $11 plus tax.

10 a.m.-noon: American Legion Post 182 holds “A Tribute to All Veterans,” Coconut Grove Historical Cemetery, corner of Charles Avenue and Douglas Road, with refreshments to follow at Christ Episcopal Church, 3482 Hibiscus St.

10 a.m.: University of Miami President Donna Shalala’s Veterans Day Tribute, at the Rock, in front of the UM Bookstore, 1306 Stanford Drive, Coral Gables campus.


crosenberg@miamiherald.com

Call it the “Better Late than Never Parade.”

Miami kicked off Veterans Day weekend Friday with a special downtown salute to say thank you to two very special groups of South Florida veterans — those who fought in Vietnam and those who were captured at the Bay of Pigs.

The Florida National Guard’s 13th Army Band resurrected rock songs from the ’70s. Gloria Estefan sent a video salute. Veterans of many eras donned military attire to pay homage to those who fought in two American military ventures that ended badly.

Former Army First Sgt. Robert Molleda, 68, wearing a Purple Heart ribbon on his chest from the injuries inflicted by an 82mm mortar round on May 14, 1969 in Vietnam, reflected the sentiments of the day:

“This is long overdue,” said Molleda. “We never got a welcome-home parade when we got back from the war.”

Molleda, who left Cuba in 1959 and joined the U.S. Army three years later at age 17, said he has never regretted his service and would do it all over again.

Nearby at a grandstand, Brigade 2506 veteran Raul Martinez, 72, said he and fellow Bay of Pigs veterans did get a parade.

But the wrong kind.

Soon after his capture in the ill-fated, U.S-backed April 1961 invasion, the Cuban victors marched Martinez and others through the streets of Havana. It was a humiliation he blamed not on the trainers of the 82nd Airborne — “they were excellent,” Martinez recalled Friday — but on political machinations.

“The people who blew it were the people in Washington,” said Martinez, as another Brigade 2506 veteran chimed in, “We were betrayed.”

Police estimated that 3,000 to 4,000 people took part in the parade and accompanying concert, said Jorge Brito, sergeant at arms of the Board of County Commissioners.

And while the crowd was dotted with men and women in uniform, many of them active-duty service members, the actual turnout of Vietnam veterans was meager at best: A small knot of Vietnam veterans rode motorcycles in the parade, a self-styled color guard waved the POW/MIA flag from the bed of a flatbed truck and perhaps another 100 veterans and family members were driven down the street in a tour bus.

Veterans Day is Monday so the county and municipal leaders set aside Friday as a special day.

“It’s about time that the Vietnam veterans are recognized because when they came home they were spit upon,” said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado. “It’s sad that it took so long,” he added, “but it’s great that we’re doing this today.”

The focus was meant to be on the Vietnam veterans,. Regalado said, adding that organizers included the Bay of Pigs veterans because “they were trained by the U.S., so they are veterans, too.”

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