Local Vietnam veterans offer retrospective on war’s end

 

DOVER — For veterans of the Vietnam War the date is as memorable as V-E Day to their parents or Nov. 11 to their grandparents.

But the end of this war was much different.

April 30, 1975. This past Thursday marked 40 years since the fall of Saigon.

Once the proud capital of South Vietnam, the city’s capitulation to North Vietnamese troops on that date marked the close of the Vietnam War.

United States participation in that war had lasted more than a decade. It had claimed more than 58,000 American lives when the Paris Peace Accords ended direct U.S. involvement in 1973.

Vietnam veteran (U.S. Air Force 1966-68) and co-founder of the Delaware Veterans Coalition Dave Skocik of Dover was the keynote speaker at Thursday evening’s “Remembering the Vietnam War: A 40-Year Retrospective” at Delaware State University. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

Vietnam veteran (U.S. Air Force 1966-68) and co-founder of the Delaware Veterans Coalition Dave Skocik of Dover was the keynote speaker at Thursday evening’s “Remembering the Vietnam War: A 40-Year Retrospective” at Delaware State University. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

But that wasn’t all.

The Vietnam War tore apart the nation’s politics, damaged the image of the military and our government leaders, and changed the way Americans thought of their country and its role in the world.

On Thursday night veterans of that war participated in a panel discussion at Delaware State University. The event honored those who served our country during that time and aimed to educate the younger generation.

“This is a momentous occasion for Vietnam veterans and their families,” said U.S. Air Force veteran David Skocik, co-founder of the Delaware Veterans Coalition.

“We are here to acknowledge what is seen by some not as a defeat for American power that was often mistakenly laid on the shoulders of the warrior, but rather of American willpower. That’s not meant to arm wrestle or reopen old arguments.

“But there’s little doubt that each of our nation’s 2.7 million Vietnam veterans will remember where he or she was on April 30, 1975, when North Vietnamese troops rolled into Saigon.”

Throughout the event the veterans on the panel spoke about their experiences during the war.

Delaware State University history professor Dr. Samuel Hoff spoke at Thursday evening’s retrospective.

Delaware State University history professor Dr. Samuel Hoff spoke at Thursday evening’s retrospective.

“Coming to events like these makes me feel better about my service,” veteran Howard Bryant said. “I served my country and I’m happy I did that. When I came home my country didn’t want to serve me, but I have since forgave America.

“It was the roughest time I experienced in my life,” Mr. Bryant added. “Being out in the jungles during monsoon season, being wet for two or three months, leeches, tigers. It’s not only the enemy trying to kill you but other elements as well.”

The veterans on the panel also expressed the importance of keeping the Vietnam War history alive for future generations.

“Our story needs to be told more in this country,” said veteran Paul Davis. “Not only does the Vietnam story need to be told, but the sacrifices the families had to make.

“The soldier had to leave and most of the time left the spouse at home with the children and I feel it’s important to recognize that aspect of it, too.”

Veteran Rick Lovekin agreed.

“When my children got older they came to me and said there’s nothing in our history books about the Vietnam War and asked me to tell them about it,” Mr. Lovekin said.

“It’s really amazing that the college has allowed us to come and speak. It’s important for the young people and future generations to know about the Vietnam War.”

DSU students Caleb Legrand and Eric Wright said they learned a lot from the event.

Army veteran Walter “Dubby” Lekites III of Camden salutes during Thursday evening’s “Remembering the Vietnam War: A 40-Year Retrospective”

Army veteran Walter “Dubby” Lekites III of Camden salutes during Thursday evening’s “Remembering the Vietnam War: A 40-Year Retrospective”

“From being here I learned about the sacrifices they had to make coming into the war,” Mr. Wright said. “I didn’t really think too much about the war because it wasn’t in my time period, but it was great to understand the struggles they had to endure during that time.”

Mr. Legrand shared the same sentiment.

“Each person has a story to pass on and someone has to listen,” Mr. Legrand said.

“It’s great to know this type of information because I never would have known any of this if I didn’t attend to this event.”

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