VFW HONORS ACTRESS ANN-MARGRET IN DENVER FOR SERVICE
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