VFW HON­ORS ACTRESS ANN-MARGRET IN DEN­VER FOR SER­VICE

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Bruce Fin­ley

Singer and actress An­nMar­gret, 75, cir­cled back Sun­day night, din­ing and con­vers­ing in Den­ver with 400 war vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies — in­clud­ing some she met 50 years ago when she went to Viet­nam dur­ing the war.

As com­bat in Viet­nam in­ten­si­fied, she had been re­ceiv­ing let­ters from sol­diers beg­ging her to visit their base, she re­called in an in­ter­view. “I wanted to go the next day. But, of course, the gov­ern­ment. It takes a while.” A month later in 1966, she made her first visit — with Johnny Rivers and a bas­sist and drum­mer.

She took the stage as hun­dreds of troops thronged — a vi­va­cious Swedish-Amer­i­can star who cared about them. She sang. And when she was danc­ing to the Rolling Stones’ “Sat­is­fac­tion,” a sol­dier jumped onto the stage and danced with her as she whirled her red hair in wild cir­cles. An­other actress, Jane Fonda, had vis­ited Hanoi op­pos­ing the war.

But there at Da Nang, when the mu­sic stopped, Ann-Margret held the mi­cro­phone, looked out at the troops and told them they had her deep­est re­spect, ad­mi­ra­tion and loy­alty.

Now the feel­ing is mu­tual. The Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars group, founded in Den­ver af­ter the Span­ishAmer­i­can War in 1899, saluted her Sun­day at the Brown Palace with an award for life­time ser­vice.

Ann-Margret is never for­got­ten be­cause she sup­ported troops at a time when the Viet­nam War was un­pop­u­lar, said the VFW’s past com­man­der, Michael Mitchel. “It’s im­por­tant that we have the sup­port of the com­mu­nity and the na­tion — what­ever the conflict.”

When she re­ceived the let­ters from young men sent to fight North Viet­namese guer­ril­las in jun­gles, she felt com­pelled to help, she said.

“I could en­ter­tain. I can sing and dance and per­form. So I felt that I could do some­thing. There was noth­ing like what they were do­ing. Ev­ery sin­gle day, they were out there, men and women. I think about them ev­ery sin­gle day. See, I am not a doc­tor. I am not a den­tist. I mean, I can’t do that over there. But I can en­ter­tain.”

All through these years, she has been re­ceiv­ing let­ters and notes from Viet­nam War vet­er­ans. They reach her back­stage, writ­ten by men re­mind­ing her they saw her in Viet­nam dur­ing the war.

“I’m just thrilled they’re back here on Amer­i­can soil,” she said. “I love my guys.”

One of those who made it back was David Gar­cia, 73, who was posted at Da Nang as a Marines com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist when she vis­ited. He and hun­dreds of oth­ers were stand­ing in a hot, dusty line at the chow hall. Gar­cia was so im­pressed that he pushed his way over to where An­nMar­gret was be­ing led to­ward a ve­hi­cle. He handed her his chow hall ad­mis­sions badge. He asked her to sign it.

Ann-Margret said: “Sure.” She scrawled her name, and smiled. A mil­i­tary pho­tog­ra­pher took a photo.

“It was the sex­i­est ‘sure’ I ever heard in my life,” said Gar­cia, re­tired now in Lit­tle­ton.

On Sun­day, Gar­cia waited in a line and, then, showed Ann-Margret that old photo and the chow card she signed.

“I haven’t seen you for 50 years,” he told her.

Ann-Margret meets with Viet­nam War vet­eran David Gar­cia in Den­ver on Sun­day. Gar­cia showed her a photo taken 50 years ago when he pushed his way through a crowd on a mil­i­tary base in Viet­nam to ask for her au­to­graph. Bruce Fin­ley, The Den­ver Post

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