(La Porte, IN) - The eyes of a LaPorte County veteran teared up when duplicates of his lost medals for service in the Vietnam War were pinned on his sport coat.
Doing the honors was 2nd District Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the featured speaker at the annual Veterans Day ceremony Thursday in LaPorte. Roughly 200 veterans and family members and 600 students bused in from school attended the close to a one-hour ceremony at the Civic Auditorium.
"My original medals, I don't know whatever happened to them. This was a big surprise," said Rich Mrozinski.
The Rolling Prairie man was dispatched to his first of two tours of duty in Vietnam in 1970. He appreciated receiving copies of his Air Commendation Medal, National Defense Medal, and two Vietnam Service Medals awarded by the United States and Vietnam.
"I'm still kind of in shock. It's a big honor," Mrozinski said.
Mrozinski is in the first year of his second term as a LaPorte County Commissioner.
Walorski directed some of our messages to the children in attendance.
"You were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen. Don't let them tell you that is not the case," she said.
The applause became more like cheers when she verbally gave a big pat on the back to people who served the country.
"Thank God for the veteran of the United States of America," Walorski said.
She also quoted the late Army General and President Dwight Eisenhower in paying homage to soldiers, including those who never came home from battle.
"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or to the timid," she said.
The ceremony included patriotic songs performed by middle school and high school music students, a gun salute, and playing of the taps.
Dion Ortiz of LaPorte said he makes it a point on Veterans Day to be grateful for everyone who has served in the military and remembers the soldiers he fought within the Vietnam War who didn't make it back. The former U.S. Marine and Native American also gave best wishes to young people defending the country in the future.
"God bless them all," Ortiz said.