Petty officer Larry Harris, retired, remembers a time when veterans who served in Vietnam were treated poorly. But as time goes on, things are starting to change.

“We were treated like crap, and still people disrespect us,” said Harris, who served in Vietnam. “Because of our younger generation, they’ve actually started opening their arms and hands out to us ... (to) try to make up for what happened to us.”

Harris attended the annual veterans appreciation dinner — which has been a lunch in past years — hosted by the Kerr County Women’s Chamber on Wednesday. Veterans were honored for risking their lives for their nation.

“(I like) honoring the veterans, because it’s not just the ones that go into the service, but it’s their families as well,” said Jo Carol Smith, the president of the women’s chamber. “We just need not to forget what they’ve done for us.”

Ruth Marie Bauer, who serves on the Kerr County Women’s Chamber, said that having events like this is important to her, because it gives her a chance to celebrate where American freedom comes from.

“These vets are the reason we have our freedom,” Bauer said. “We wouldn’t have freedom if it wouldn’t be for all these vets.”

The dinner featured guest speaker 1st Sgt. Michael Bankston, retired, who talked about how he is amazed with the hard work that America’s foundation is built on when it comes to the American Revolution.

“Just think how our way of life would be different today if those men did not have the fortitude or vision that they had for our country,” Bankston said. “Always remember it is because the men and women who have served since the first shots at Lexington were fired on Apr. 19, 1775.”

He added that many veterans have sacrificed seeing important events such as children’s birthdays, first days of school and even their own children’s births. But they also share an important bond with fellow veterans — something that Harris said he knows, too.

“The one thing veterans do is they love each other,” Harris said. “It doesn’t matter what flavor you are or anything — it doesn’t matter what you believe. We love each other, and we care about the other person. It’s really nice to see how things have changed compared to when I got out of service.”

Also featured Wednesday was the Veterans Assistance Dogs of Texas, a nonprofit that trains and provides service dogs for veterans who need them. The chamber gathered donations from around the room for the organization, amounting to $1,255.

“We’re partners, we’re best friends,” said Staff Sgt. John Beucken, retired, who received Suzie, the first dog the organization trained. “I used to say I love Suzie. Now I say I’m in love with Suzie, because I am. She loves me and would do anything for me.”

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