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African American soldiers from the 1960's honored

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TYLER (KYTX) - The Vietnam War saw the highest number of black soldiers ever to serve in an American War. America's troops became fully integrated in the 1960's.

Sunday, over 100 East Texas African American soldiers who fought during that time were honored in Tyler.

There was not an empty seat at Liberty Baptist Church in Tyler for the second annual ceremony.

"I served from 1960 to 1978," said Army veteran Roosevelt McKellar Jr., who was honored at Sunday's program for his service in the Vietnam War.

"It makes me feel great that somebody is supporting us," he said.

He said as an African American soldier in Vietnam, he never felt much like a hero.

"We had a tough time."

The Vietnam War was the first major combat deployment of an integrated military, even though there was still racial conflict at home.

McKellar calls Sunday's appreciation program a stark contrast from the hostility he once felt not only from the enemy in Vietnam, but also from fellow Americans.

"Many endured things that I certainly could never have endured and I am so thankful for them," said Air Force veteran Major General John Phillips.

He says he was honored to speak at the ceremony. "Very often we have become a footnote in history and I think it's important especially for the young African Americans, that they understand their history and their legacy that we eventually give them a beacon of hope."

As McKellar was honored by his community, he sat surrounded by men he served with - men he calls his brothers.

"It feels great, he said. "I'm around my buddies now."

He's been through the horrors of war and has lived most of his life with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but he says sitting in the church, surrounded by those who understand him and appreciate him, gave him a sense of pride.

The second annual African American Soldiers Recognition Day was put together by three area churches. The group plans to hold similar ceremonies every year, honoring a different decade of veterans.

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