GALLIPOLIS — Veterans of the Vietnam War gathered at the Gallia Courthouse Thursday morning as Gallia County Commissioners recognized March 29 as Vietnam War Veterans Day in conjunction with national recognition signed into recent action by US President Donald Trump.
The National Vietnam War Veterans Day is considered a memorializing holiday to remember the sacrifices and recognize those who were often not welcomed fondly after returning from Vietnam. The day has been in existence since 1973, according to Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 709 President Larry Marr, through a variety of resolutions. The date had traditionally been observed on either March 29 or 30 and was now formally set to be recognized March 29 by Trump.
The conflict in Vietnam has often been recognized as a controversial moment in US history.
“Sometimes we’ve had a parade and different activities,” said Marr. “It’s about being welcomed home when a lot of veterans didn’t receive a proper welcome home.”
Marr guessed there may potentially be 400 to 500 Vietnam veterans in Gallia.
“We try to get the word out every year,” said Marr. “Come join our group. The main thing we want is to serve. We’ve served our country, but we’re not done serving. We want to serve our community now and take care of veterans that need special help. Not just Vietnam veterans, but any that need help.”
“I appreciate what they (the veterans) did,” said Commissioner David Smith. “I graduated in 1975 and remember the end of the war. I appreciate their sacrifices and remember it being a difficult time. People questioned why we were there and some didn’t support the war. It was an indecisive time.”
Commissioner Brent Saunders is also one among thousands of American families who took the war to heart.
“On a personal note, I made a trip to Yeager Airport (in Kanawha County, West Virginia) with Mom, Dad and little brother, Ken (Kennison Saunders),” said the commissioner. “I waved goodbye to him and at that time I was probably a freshman in college. I said goodbye to him but I knew there was a chance he may not come back…He was in artillery and firefights…I hadn’t seen him since he returned from Vietnam and he went to work right away for Ohio Power and his crew was up in Tiffin, Ohio. I went to Heidelberg University. He called and said ‘I’m going to be there’ at this time of day and I went over to see him. It was an emotional time because I already had a friend in Gallipolis who had stepped on a mine.”
Of Gallia Vietnam veterans who died in the 1960s and 70s, Marr and his colleagues remember them as Russell Hamilton, John Finnicum, Charles Neal, Wandle Hickman, Russell Blanton, Archie Hayman, Paul Yost, Cecil Matthew, Jr., Leslie Brucker, Roger Hawley, Fred Mooney, Albert Lee, Kevin Griffin and Richard Criner.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.