• Post honors local Vietnam veterans

  • On May 25, 2012, former President Barack Obama signed a proclamation enacting the United States’ commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, to be celebrated May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    On May 25, 2012, former President Barack Obama signed a proclamation enacting the United States’ commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, to be celebrated May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025.
    The official commemoration date of March 29 was proclaimed by President Donald Trump in 2017.
    Local Vietnam veterans were honored in a Vietnam War commemorative pinning ceremony March 29 at Frontier Chapel.
    “We all had different reasons why we either joined, enlisted, drafted or volunteered to go to Vietnam. We saluted and moved out, did our duty, came back,” said retired Col. Lynn Rolf Jr., Vietnam veteran. “We didn’t come back to a very favorable country. We were spit on. We were cast aside.
    “A lot has changed in 50 years. It is nice to see our country now recognizing the service, honorable service of those that have served in Vietnam,” he said. “I want to remind everybody today, just as those Vietnam vets and our national organization of Vietnam Veterans of America said, no other generation of veterans will be treated like we were.”
    Michael Focke, Kansas City Mobile Veteran Center outreach specialist, who served as the ceremony narrator, said this conviction was evident when he came home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
    “When I came home, I was bitter because I didn’t feel like I did anything, but I’ve slowly realized those were Vietnam veterans in the airports that were welcoming me home,” Focke said. “It was Vietnam veterans that were returning the favor. They were saying never again will this happen.
    “When I stopped and thought about it, my whole service was rendered successful because of Vietnam veterans. We used Vietnam tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan that kept us alive,” he said. “I’m a better man for my family and my kids because of Vietnam veterans, and if it wasn’t for Vietnam veterans, I wouldn’t be here today. So, with gratitude and respect as an Iraq veteran and a Marine, thank you for your service.”
    Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Jon Williams, with the help of Focke, presented the veterans with lapel pins.
    One of the seven veterans pinned was former Marine Staff Sgt. Les Babcock, who served in Vietnam from 1965-68.
    “It means a great deal to me (they) allow the time to give recognition,” Babcock said.
    There was also a special table at the ceremony in dedication to the Vietnam veterans who were prisoners of war and those missing in action. Tom Poulter, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 56 commander, explained the symbolism of each piece on the table.
    The one table setting symbolizes the “frailty of one prisoner.” The round table shows “our everlasting concern for our POW and MIAs.” The white cloth symbolizes “the purity of our men and women’s motives when answering the call of duty.” The single red rose symbolizes “our continued determination to account for them.” The lemon slice “reminds us of the bitter fate of those missing, captured and held as prisoners in foreign lands.” A pinch of salt “symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.” The Bible “represents the strength gained through faith in our country, founded as one nation under God, to sustain those lost from our midst.” The candle “is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home.” The inverted glass symbolizes “their inability to share this evening’s toast.” Finally, the empty chair represents that they are still missing, Poulter said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Guest speaker Jack Walker, special assistant to the Garrison commander, shared his own experiences in the Vietnam War and said there are many things a Vietnam veteran like himself can’t forget.
    “You can’t forget the civilians … who were either killed in their homes or captured during battle. The citizens of Vietnam who were murdered for helping the U.S. You can’t forget the 58,000-plus U.S. servicemen who did not come home,” Walker said. “There were 153,303 wounded personnel during this war, 1,948 missing in action, 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers killed. Over 2 million Vietnamese civilians were killed and there were 2 million refugees who fled the country as a result of the conflict.
    “Many of the veterans of Vietnam can tell you their experiences if they will it. Some things are not things you want to recall. Others are just plain humorous because funny things do happen,” he said. “They all played a part in our success and don’t consider what they did was a loss. Their duty is their duty ... This is why we appreciate what’s being done now to recognize our veterans from a conflict that cost us all so much. We Vietnam vets appreciate you being with us today to honor the real heroes, those that did not come back.”
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