Former Somervell County resident Alfred West has special feelings for those who show their appreciation for sacrifices given by military veterans, so the annual Valentines for Veterans event in Kopperl was an emotional experience.

West, who graduated from Glen Rose High School in 1962, was one of the military veterans recently honored at the Kopperl High School gym, attended by Colonel Mark Franklin from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Kopperl Independent School District in Bosque County has the distinction of having been named as the first school district in the nation to be an official partner for the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War. That’s an initiative under the direction of the U.S. Department of Defense, explained West’s wife Martha, who is a kindergarten teacher in Kopperl.

This year marked the fourth straight Valentines for Veterans event in Kopperl, with Colonel Franklin once again coordinating the assembly.

“It’s an effort to unite the country with our military, and instill honor and respect,” Alfred West explained. “I lost everything I had when I got back (from Vietnam), so this means a lot to me. Colonel Franklin has gone out of his way to do this. They are trying to bring us back together as a nation — heal the wounds. They’re working hard at it, and doing a wonderful job. I really do appreciate it. It’s really encouraging. I had the pleasure and the honor of meeting Colonel Franklin.”

Tammy Moss and Martha West help host "Valentines for Veterans,” which offers veterans an opportunity to hear other veterans speak and respond to Kopperl's fifth through 12th grade students' gestures of honor to all military veterans.

Martha added, “It is hoped that the ‘Valentines for Veterans’ event at Kopperl School will continue to grow, giving Somervell County citizens and Veterans, as well as those of other areas, an event to attend to express their honor and gratitude to all our Veterans and their families, and more importantly, give Veterans themselves an opportunity to participate in a time of sincere appreciation and fellowship with other Veterans and patriotic citizens.”

After graduating from UT-Arlington with a degree in business administration, West joined the Army and eventually became a Green Beret First Lieutenant as a member of the Airborne Secret Forces. He served two years and 10 months, having been posted in a hot spot known as the Seven Mountains area — heavily infiltrated by the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong near the Cambodian Border.

Martha stated in an email to the Glen Rose Reporter that Alfred was “in an area of constant danger with an extensive and massive network of enemy caves and tunnels near the Ho Chi Minh trail.”

To Alfred, she said, the duty “seemed like just another job that had to be done. After all, that's the reason he answered the patriotic call, drawing upon the patriotism and hard work ethic of Somervell County citizens. His roots ran deep and continued to sustain him even to the present day.”

West was born in Illinois and in 1960 his family settled on land that since then became part of Dinosaur Valley State Park, just outside Glen Rose. The move to Somervell County was just in time for his senior year at GRHS, where he was an all-district guard in football for the Tigers and voted “Most Handsome.”

Before West and his wife moved to Bosque County in 1987, they had been neighbors of Somervell County residents Boone and Tammy Moss. Boone is a nephew of Vietnam veteran James Moss. Martha and Tammy serve on the school’s 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War Partnership Committee. The Boones have numerous relatives who served in the military and called the Glen Rose area home, Martha noted.

Alfred West recalled that when many Americans turned against the cause in the Vietnam War, soldiers often faced an ugly backlash when they returned home. The Kopperl students often hear the story from the solders’ point of view for the first time at the annual event held there.

“They really had an impact on these children,” Alfred West said. “It was their first experience hearing that.”

West said that he wasn’t focused on what was happening in Vietnam when he was still in school, but decided to volunteer for the Army after completing college.

“I’m very patriotic,” said West, who has been married to Martha since 1975. “I believe in serving the country. I volunteered for (military) service, and I paid a heavy price for it, and I appreciate everything they’ve done. If we don’t serve the country, you’re not gong to have a country very long.”

West said that even if he and the other soldiers didn’t necessarily agree with the political leaders who were making decisions in Washington that affected the Vietnam War on the ground, he felt an obligation to his country.

“There were men over there giving their lives, so I volunteered,” West said. “I served with some of the finest guys I’ve ever met on this earth.”