I attended the 2008 Veterans and Military Summit held Nov. 1 at the American Bank Center hosted by U.S. Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz in conjunction with the City of Corpus Christi.

It is amazing that one of our own local leaders, Congressman Ortiz, is currently serving as the Chairman of the powerful Readiness Subcommittee on the House Armed Committee for the United States of America.

At the conference, I learned that my fellow veterans needed to sign up for veteran services by contacting the VA clinic or their congressman. With veterans that number 160,000 in South Texas, it is important to be active in the pursuit of veteran benefits, our leaders, like our congressman, can help justify a hospital in this area.

San Antonio has the closest VA Hospital. It is very difficult to travel long distances for many of our surviving veterans who are disabled, by loss of limb(s), ability to be employed or related illnesses or injuries from combat or service to our country.

As a surviving U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, I swelled with pride to see all these accomplished individuals who organized a summit for the benefit of our surviving U.S. veterans.

Russ Murphy, a singer/songwriter, performed a popular inspirational country song called "Welcome Home Soldier." He has had three of his songs go to No. 1 on the national Inspirational Country music charts. Russ gave free copies of that song and "My America" and is hoping to give one million copies away for free on his Web site, www.russmurphyministries.com.

The highlight of the opening ceremonies was the awarding of the Silver Star to a surprised Ram Chavez, director for the Veterans Band of Corpus Christi. As an army medic, his job was to save and get wounded soldiers home. He was recognized specifically for dragging to safety the wounded soldier Pascual Ramirez while bullets were flying around them from enemy fire in 1968. He saved many others and the right people noticed and recognized him for his valor 40 years later.

Ram's wife was introduced as his daughter. Ram smiled, laughed and with his great sense of humor added: "I married the first civilian I saw upon my return from Vietnam."

It was a very touching moment for him, his family and friends. I met him for the first time and it was a moment to remember, meeting a living Silver Star recipient.

Joe-Santos Medina is a resident of Robstown. Readers may contact him via email at joesantosm@hotmail.com.