Vietnam veterans honored at Memorial Park

DOVER — “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

That’s the basic foundation behind Vietnam Veterans of America, a national group that has more than 75,000 members who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

The war resulted in the deaths of more than 58,000 Americans and deeply impacted tens of millions more.

Wednesday, Vietnam Veterans Day, marks the 44th anniversary of the last American troops leaving Vietnam. In advance of that day, dozens of Delawareans, most of them veterans or family members of veterans, came together Saturday to honor and remember.

About 50 people gathered around the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park for a ceremony organized by the Kent County Chapter 850 of Vietnam Veterans of America.

Don Coffman with the VVA Chapter 850 salutes after placing a wreath. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“The Vietnam War has haunted our American conscience for decades,” said Col. John Trunzo of the Delaware Army National Guard.

Delaware National Guard Col. John Trunzo gives the keynote speech.

Maj. Gen. Carol Timmons, the leader of the Delaware National Guard since Feb. 1, was supposed to be the featured speaker, but she was unable to attend due to illness. Col. Trunzo, a member of the U.S. Army for more than 30 years, went in her stead and he spoke of the trials and tribulations Americans who served in Vietnam experienced.

Dozens of individuals in the audience listened intently, with emotion visible on the face of some as they reminisced about the war that changed America.

Twenty-eight Kent Countians died in the war, and more served.

But those who returned home were often treated with scorn from a public that had begun rebelling against the war in large numbers by the late 1960s.

“In many cases, you became the face and the target of our national frustration as we tried to come to grips with why and how this national venture sponsored by three successive administrations had gone so horribly wrong,” Col. Trunzo said.

Attendees laid wreaths by the monuments at the memorial park, and a bugler played “Taps,” a song that accompanies many solemn military ceremonies.

VVA Chapter 850 Chaplain Terry Sammons salutes during the playing of the national anthem.

Paul Davis, president of Chapter 850, announced that members of the Vietnam Dustoff Association, a nonprofit that honors those who flew helicopters in Vietnam, are coming to Delaware Sept. 23 following an invitation.

Bill Frantz with the Dover Fire Department Pipe and Drums warms up before the Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony.

All veterans, despite differences in age, speak a common language, Delaware Veterans Coalition President Dave Skocik said.

With the number of living veterans who fought in World War II and the Korean War dwindling, it won’t be long before the oldest generation of veterans are Vietnam-era vets.

“Your war taught our country its most important lesson: to honor our veterans, our hometown heroes, and to never again forsake them,” Col. Trunzo said.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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