GALLIPOLIS — While the Vietnam War may forever be remembered as a controversial point in American history, Gallia’s Vietnam veterans remembered it Thursday as a time of sacrifice and duty.
Veterans and community members honored the 12 names of Gallia veterans, among the nation’s tens of thousands, who died during the war at 1 p.m. in Gallipolis City Park in front of the Spirit of the Doughboy memorial.
“Comrades, we’re gathered here today to pay tribute to the men and women who fought in Vietnam,” said Vietnam Veterans of America member and VFW Post 4464 Commander Bill Mangus. “I’d like to share a few stats with you. The Vietnam War started in 1959 to 1975. Over 2,700,000 men and women served in the Vietnam War. Fifty-eight thousand four hundred and seventy nine gave their lives. Over 304,000 were wounded while in Vietnam. “
On March 29, 2012, then President Barack Obama declared the day as Vietnam Veterans Day. On March 28, last year, President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 which officially recognized National Vietnam War Veterans Day as March 29.
Mangus said the day was set March 29 because in 1973 the last US forces left Vietnam.
President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 709 Larry Marr recognized twelve individuals as the “Gallia County Fallen Heroes of the Vietnam War.”
“They were among the 58,479 who died,” said Marr. “In 1966, we lost Russell Hamilton and John Finnicum. In 1967, Charles or Chuck Neal, as some of you remember him, Wandle Hickman and Russell Blanton were killed in Vietnam.In ‘68 we lost four, Archie Hayman, Paul Yost, Cecil Matthew, Jr., and Leslie Brucker. March 28 of 1969, Roger Hawley perished in Vietnam. Feb. 27 of ‘71, Fred Mooney, he perished in Vietnam and his body was never recovered…Albert Lee, he died in Vietnam, Feb. 2, 1972. “
“I returned from Vietnam in 1966 and it wasn’t popular for the guys returning to say they were Vietnam veterans,” said VVA member Ron Wroblewski. “I didn’t like that. I thought we should be proud of our service. We did what our country asked for. Those that went to Canada and were protesting, they’re the ones that should have been ashamed. Not us. Be proud of your service and proud you went to Vietnam and did your duty. Welcome home and I’m glad you made it back.”
“I recently started reading a book (The River Rats of Vietnam, by Ralph Christopher),” said VVA member Mike Plymale. “I ran the rivers in Vietnam and the fellows who wrote this book were on one of the boat crews. He wrote a prologue that I would like to read to you that really encompasses the Vietnam veterans as well as all veterans’ plights.”
Plymale read passages from the book. One among them stated that “We who marched off proudly when our country called, in a time when many chose not to, were continuing the legacy of the American liberators and attempting to deliver freedom to far-off nations and people who had never known it.”
VVA member Gary Fenderbosch led the ceremony’s closing prayer. A firing salute was held afterwards.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.