Local Vietnam veterans receive long overdue recognition

Published 5:13 am Thursday, December 17, 2015

During the last week, we had the tremendous honor of recognizing Vietnam veterans from all across Virginia’s Fifth District at ceremonies in South Hill, Danville, Bedford, Charlottesville and Warrenton as part of the 50th anniversary of United States’ engagement in the Vietnam War.  We gathered to pay long overdue tribute to those brave men and women who served our nation valiantly during the Vietnam War.

Fifty years ago in peaceful places all across our congressional district, America’s young men and women took on the solemn responsibility of going to war to protect our freedom. They left their small towns and their loving families to answer the call of duty. They were asked to do things that no person should ever have to do, and they saw things no person should ever have to see. But they accepted the responsibility to preserve our freedom and our peace so others would not have to go into harm’s way.

And, unfortunately, upon returning home, our Vietnam veterans were not always welcomed in the manner they should have been — and that is a dark mark on our nation’s history. Today, we as a nation, have an opportunity to make this right, and it is our responsibility to do so.

At the five ceremonies we hosted across the district, I was once again reminded of unwavering commitment these heroes made to each other and their fellow man. For all of them, their service to our nation, to future generations and to each other has continued on long past the war.

Paul Galanti, who was held prisoner in the infamous Hanoi Hilton for nearly seven years, spoke in South Hill and Danville about the camaraderie between the branches of the military and the inseparable bond between all of those who have served.

Steve Bozeman, the keynote speaker at our ceremony in Bedford, has led a weekly “Support Our Troops” rally at Monument Terrace in Lynchburg every week for over 14 years to ensure that our troops know they have our support. Indeed, the day of our Bedford ceremony was the 730th consecutive rally.

Jim O’Kelley spoke in Charlottesville, noting that Vietnam veterans are the only generation who did not receive a warm welcome from a grateful nation upon coming home, and he talked about the “special sweetness” of freedom that those who have served know.

And in Warrenton, Randy West shared the stories of heroes and their service in Vietnam, reminding us all of the selflessness of those who serve.

These men exemplify service to their fellow man, and they represent but a few of the meaningful stories of our local heroes.

Robert Hurt, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the U.S. House of Representatives. His website is hurt.house.gov. He can be reached at his Farmville office at (434) 395-0120.