By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Vero Beach and the surrounding area will have some new faces this weekend as veterans from around the country congregate for a special reunion.
Frank Jencik, Vero Beach resident and Vietnam veteran, organized a 24th reunion celebration for more than 50 of his brothers-in-arms from Delta Company, Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, Ranger, First Infantry Division, to be held in Indian River County June 19-21.
"I'm very proud of where we live and I thought everyone else would enjoy what Vero Beach has to offer," Mr. Jencik said.
The U.S. Army veteran said the annual reunion renews the bonds that the soldiers once shared on the battlefield and provides a refreshing place for them to reminisce about their military experience.
"It's a bond that is still there after more than four decades. It's probably a little hard for people to understand, but it's there," he said.
Mr. Jencik served one year on the front lines of battle in Vietnam, searching out enemy encampments to be destroyed later during a fight.
"We didn't have barracks, we were living out in the jungle," Mr. Jencik said.
He remembers coming home from the war and having difficulty decompressing and getting used to civilian life.
"On June 12 I was in battle and on June 15 I was processed out and home. That was too quick for me," Mr. Jencik said.
It has been widely known that Vietnam veterans were not properly recognized for their service when they came home, but nowadays it is gratifying to hear the gratefulness when people thank him for his service to the country, he said.
During the reunion, veterans will have the opportunity to explore Vero Beach and the surrounding communities with trips planned to Waldo's Restaurant, the U.S. Navy Seal/UDT Museum, Bethel Creek House, and plenty of free time to explore other points of interest, Mr. Jencik said.
Mr. Jencik is excited about the entire reunion weekend, but is most looking forward to the special memorial service planned for June 21.
At previous reunions, participants have always raised a toast to the soldiers that never made their way back home, but Mr. Jencik wanted this year to be a little different.
"It bothered me that we never said their names or where they came from, so we are going to be reading that on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Veteran's Memorial Island Sanctuary," Mr. Jencik said.
The memorial ceremony will include reading the names of 41 soldiers from Delta Company, Second Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, Ranger, First Infantry Division, who died in action during the Vietnam War.
Taps will played during the ceremony as a way to say goodbye and to honor their sacrifice, Mr. Jencik said.
The service is open to the public and based on comments he has received when he has shared the plans, there should be a nice sized crowd to participate.
Member of the Board of Indian River County Commissioners said they were honored to have the veterans come to this county to celebrate their reunion and issued a proclamation commemorating June 21 as a day to remember the unit.