Veteran Rudy Garcia stops at a spot on the traveling Vietnam Wall to remember and honor the memories of his friends who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. (Photo courtesy of the United States Air Force)
Last Modified: Thursday, April 03, 2014 12:11 PM
For too long Vietnam veterans were deprived of adulation as opposed to what happened in World War II. The men and women weren’t welcomed home by people who were in opposition to the war, considering it became a very unpopular war. There wasn’t a definitive victory, so there was no celebratory parade. The best response received to veterans was apathy when the soldiers returned.
But last Saturday, city officials and residents gathered at Veterans Memorial Park to honor those local Vietnam veterans.
About 3 million service members were deployed to Vietnam over the course of the war. About 75 percent of them were from lower-middle-class or working-class families; about 50,000 between the ages of 16 and 62 never returned. For the ones who were able to finally start coming home in 1969, the reception from the public didn’t reflect the sacrifices made by those men and women.
At the event, Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach talked about how the soldiers deserved better once they returned home. He said the program was to show how their sacrifices would never be forgotten.
“We preface the issuing of this proclamation with these words: ‘For your courage, for your sacrifice, for your devotion to duty. For your service to our country. For not giving up when we failed to give you the honor you deserved, for teaching us that young Americans must never again be sent to fight in battle unless we’re prepared to let them win,’ ” Roach said. “ ‘For the inspiration that you have given to our sons and daughters for defending us at home and around the world, today is your day.’ ”
To honor the veterans now is belated, considering most of them are in there 50s, 60s and 70s, but they did serve. Many of the men were drafted and served the country honorably and with dignity. While some enlisted, the vast majority who went to Vietnam didn’t have a choice.
They did what the country, or government at that time, asked them to do. They deserve to be recognized for their sacrifices. Anyone who has been in combat has a lot to deal with, whether it’s bad memories, nightmares and even exposure to Agent Orange.
We hope this becomes an annual event at Veterans Memorial Park. When men and women are honored at the park it makes the park more than just bricks, a flagpole and a tank — it humanizes the park. The men and women who served in Vietnam certainly deserve this country’s gratitude and best wishes. It’s never too late to say “thank you” for what they went through.