Le­gion hosts ‘Wel­come Home’ party for Viet­nam vet­er­ans

Record Observer - - Community - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

STEVENSVILLE — Al­though it rained nearly all day and into the evening Saturday, Oct. 8, it did not dampen the spirit or goal of the day — “Wel­come Home, Viet­nam Vet­er­ans!” Kent Is­land Amer­i­can Le­gion, Post 278, in Stevensville, hosted a celebration, rec­og­niz­ing the sac­ri­fices of those mil­i­tary per­son­nel who served dur­ing the Viet­nam War. This was the sec­ond year for the celebration. Last year, the Depart­ment of De­fense des­ig­nated 2015 — 2017 as the 50th an­niver­sary of the end­ing of the Viet­nam War.

The war, which the U.S. gov­ern­ment in­her­ited from the French in the late 1950s dur­ing the Eisen­hower ad­min­is­tra­tion, was an at­tempt to pre­vent the spread of com­mu­nism is South­east Asia. First, mil­i­tary ad­vi­sors were sent to the Repub­lic of South Viet­nam (non­com­mu­nist) to as­sist them in fight­ing back against North Viet­nam (com­mu­nist) which was re­ceiv­ing mil­i­tary sup­port from Com­mu­nist China and the then-com­mu­nist Soviet Union (Rus­sia).

Fol­low­ing the death of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, the war es­ca­lated un­der Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son, who sent 500,000 Amer­i­can soldiers to fight di­rectly against the com­mu­nists in Viet­nam. As the war es­ca­lated over­seas, huge civil­ian demon­stra­tions against the war took place in the U.S.

While the war was rag­ing, U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel re­turn­ing home were openly mis­treated by demon­stra­tors wait­ing at air­ports and out­side mil­i­tary bases around the na­tion. The soldiers were crit­i­cized for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the war.

Years af­ter the war ended, many Amer­i­cans be­gan to rec­og­nized soldiers, from all ages in his­tory, as es­sen­tial peo­ple that pro­vide the na­tion with and de­fend our free­doms. When other wars came in later years, Viet­nam vet­er­ans were on the front lines to make sure the soldiers who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other mil­i­tary con­flicts, were treated as heroes when they re­turned home, rather than the way Viet­nam vet­er­ans had been treated.

“Wel­come Home, Viet­nam Vet­er­ans” event co­or­di­na­tor, Past Post 278 Com­man­der Nikki Ran­dolph spoke Saturday af­ter­noon, say­ing, “I want to thank all of you Viet­nam vet­er­ans for your ser­vice!”

With her voice crack­ing with emo­tion, Ran­dolph con­tin­ued, “We re­mem­ber how you were treated, and we learned an im­por­tant les­son. Our mil­i­tary per­son­nel are the ones re­spon­si­ble for our free­doms. You’re the heroes. When other con­flicts have hap­pened over the years, you Viet­nam vet­er­ans stood up and said, Never again! We won’t al­low our soldiers to be treated like you were treated. We thank you for help­ing us un­der­stand how we must ap­pre­ci­ate those who de­fend our na­tion and our val­ues.”

Cur­rent Post Com­man­der Curt Kersey added his own thanks and said, “To­day is all about those of you who served in Viet­nam. Wel­come home!”

Ran­dolph in­tro­duced Boy Scout Troop 278 Life Scout Ryan Con­way, who, for his Ea­gle Scout Ser­vice Pro­ject, or­ga­nized the build­ing of a Viet­nam War Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Burn Pit, made from bricks and plac­ing it be­hind the Le­gion out in the open field. Ryan raised more than $2,300 for the sup­plies it took to build it. Do­na­tions were made by the Le­gion, the KI Elks, fam­ily and friends. Other mem­bers of the troop as­sisted in build­ing it.

Ryan lit the first fire in the pit and asked all of the Viet­nam vet­er­ans to gather around it with him. His grand­fa­ther, U.S. Air Force vet­eran John Wright, who served three tours of duty in Viet­nam, 1966-1970, was present for the ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony.

Fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony, events con­tin­ued un­til late into the evening at the post. Meals were served, in­clud­ing Char­lie’s Chicken. Live mu­sic was pro­vided by the Wyes Guys Band and the Wild Grey Hairs Band.

There has been dis­cus­sion about con­clud­ing the Wel­come Home, Viet­nam Vet­er­ans celebration next year, host­ing a pa­rade for the vet­er­ans. De­tails have not been de­cided.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOPA

Viet­nam vet­er­ans gather Around the Viet­nam War Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Burn Pit, ded­i­cated dur­ing the “Wel­come Home, Viet­nam Vet­er­ans” celebration, Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Kent Is­land Amer­i­can Le­gion, Post 278, in Stevensville. The fire pit was the Ea­gle Scout Ser­vice Pro­ject built by Life Scout Ryan Con­way of Troop 278.

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

The mu­si­cal duo Wyes Guys, Greg Remesch, left, and Brian Wal­ter­hoe­fer per­form Saturday af­ter­noon, Oct. 8, dur­ing the Kent Is­land Amer­i­can Le­gion’s “Wel­come Home, Viet­nam Vet­er­ans” celebration.

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