Ottawa County celebrates Vietnam Veterans Day Featured

Display provided by the Matthews family.

On March 29, 1973, the last round of troops came home from Vietnam. Last March, Governor Kasich declared March 29 Vietnam Veterans’ Day in Ohio. This day is celebrated and recognized in 35 states so far and more are hoped to be added each year. This year, Ottawa County held its first annual Welcome Home Vietnam Era Veteran Celebration which was held at the Ottawa County Fairgrounds.

The event was independently organized by veteran Ernie Hopkins and sponsored by the Ottawa County Veterans Service Office. Hopkins is a Vietnam veteran. He served 15 months in infantry in Charlie Company 5/46 198th Americal Division artillery. Veterans were asked to serve on a committee to help with the event which also was critical in making this event happen.

 “Last year after Kasich signed the day into law I called Jenny at the vet office,” said Hopkins. “I told her we need to do something. This event recognizes those were served from 1964-1975, but every veteran is welcome to bring their support.”

The Vietnam Era Veteran Commemoration Celebration had displays from North Coast Veterans’ Museum in Gibsonburg which showcased uniforms spanning all of the Vietnam era, the Ottawa County Historical Museum and other independent collections. Hospice of Memorial Hospital and Firelands Military Group were also on hand and there were musical performances of patriotic songs. Also on display at the celebration was Ohio’s POW MIA Memorial Wall.

Ohio's POW/MIA Memorial Wall.

After welcoming remarks from Sara Toris, Executive Director of the Ottawa County Veterans Service Office, and the invocation from former Port Clinton Mayor Thomas Brown, Hopkins gave a speech entitled “Who is the Veteran”. The speech highlighted how all branches of the military worked together to help each other to accomplish the goals set forth by the United States government.

Next was a presentation by Hospice of Memorial Hospital. During the presentation there was a pinning ceremony for the veteran volunteers of the hospice program. Another group of veterans came forward to present the pins to the volunteers. Pinning is something that the hospice program takes pride in. They hold pinning ceremonies for veterans often and even go to veterans homes to present them with a pin when needed. The program believes in validating the accomplishments of the veterans, especially in their last journey in life.

“The Veterans Service Flag pin was created to distinguish and honor persons who have faithfully served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. The red background of the Veterans Service Flag represents valor, hardiness and the blood spilled by Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom; the blue rectangular field represents justice, vigilance and perseverance; and the white star represents purity, liberty and freedom.”

The Hospice of Memorial Hospital also read parts of the Presidential Proclamation on Vietnam Veterans Day that was given by President Obama March 29, 2012 when he declared Vietnam Veterans Day. Part of the proclamation reads:

“Our veterans answered our country's call and served with honor, and on March 29, 1973, the last of our troops left Vietnam.  Yet, in one of the war's most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected -- to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example.  We must never let this happen again.  Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations:  to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us.  Half a century after those helicopters swept off the ground and into the annals of history, we pay tribute to the fallen, the missing, the wounded, the millions who served, and the millions more who awaited their return.  Our Nation stands stronger for their service, and on Vietnam Veterans Day, we honor their proud legacy with our deepest gratitude.”

Guest speaker David Taylor spoke next. Taylor is author of Our War and is also a business man and veteran. In his tour, Taylor was wounded twice. He spoke on the realities of the Vietnam War. The rain, the heat, the violence, the hardship were all things that all of the Vietnam veterans endured. They didn’t expect to endure hardships after returning home, however. Taylor told stories of people he knew that he served with in Vietnam and what they have done with their lives since they have returned home. The stereotypical broken Vietnam veteran isn’t something that he sees when he looks at his comrades.

The event went on with a complimentary lunch, a fallen heroes tribute and the Ohio’s POW MIA Memorial Program which was given by Rolling Thunder Inc., Chapter 5 of Ohio.

For more information on this day or about veterans’ services, contact the Ottawa County Veterans Services Office at 419-898-3067.

March 29: Vietnam Veterans welcome home

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