Vietnam War memorial service honors those who ‘will forever be young’

DOVER — More than 100 well-wishers, veterans and community members turned out for the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony on Saturday afternoon.

To the delight of Kent County Chapter 850 Vietnam Veterans of America organizers, the remembrance was met with sunny, low 70s weather. With hardly a cloud in the sky, the only shadow cast in the park was from the ceremonial UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” Helicopter mounted over top of the memorials.

The event offered a string of speakers including Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, offering their thoughts, a wreath laying, a reading of the names of Kent County residents killed in the Vietnam War, an invocation, a Taps rendition and playing of “Amazing Grace” by the Dover Fire Pipes and Drums.

“Today we honor those that will forever be young,” Mayor Christiansen said at the gathering. “Let us never let them be forgotten and the sacrifices they made for each of us.

“Likewise we must always continue to remember them and be there as a steadfast friend for those that bear the physical and mental scars of their ordeal in the conflict.

“We must renew our efforts to help and understand the mental anguish that has led to the epidemic of suicides among our veterans and active duty military.”

The event’s keynote speaker, Delaware National Guard Adjutant Gen. Michael R. Berry, greeted residents on what was his first speaking engagement in Kent County since assuming the state’s top National Guard post on March 2.

“It’s an honor for me to be here today representing the 2,700 men and women of your Delaware National Guard,” he said to the crowd. “We come together today to recognize the service of our brothers and sisters who served 50 years ago in Vietnam.”

During his address, Gen. Berry recounted the various service members throughout his life that influenced him to always strive to be a solider that other soldiers wanted to serve alongside.

Up from his childhood listening to his uncle talk about military service at the dinner table, meeting veterans during his time in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at the University of Delaware and connecting with his father-in-law — an aviation mechanic who left a pregnant wife to serve in Vietnam — Gen. Berry said that Vietnam-era veterans have had a profound effect on contemporary soldiers.

“To you veterans in the audience, you can just listen to my story and replace my name with someone’s in your life that you’ve influenced,” he said. “Whether or not you’ve thought about it, I guarantee that your service has had an emotional impact on many people in your life.”

The adjutant general is responsible for the mission readiness of all Delaware National Guard units, to include more than 1,500 soldiers and 1,100 airmen for both federal and state missions.

Appointed by Gov. John Carney, Gen. Berry replaced former Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Carol Timmons. Gen. Timmons announced her plans to retire late last year, completing a 42-year military career. She’d been in the top post since February 2017.

“Gen. Timmons is a pioneer and made a significant impact during her 42 years of military service,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “She will be missed, but we wish her and her family all the best in retirement. Delaware is fortunate to have a leader of Gen. Mike Berry’s caliber prepared to take the reins. Mike is a great fit and would continue the tradition of exceptional leadership in the Delaware National Guard.”

Gen. Berry is a combat veteran, with 30 years military service. He served most recently as the director of the Delaware National Guard’s Joint Staff and is responsible for efforts in Domestic Operations and Military Support to Civil Authorities. He has held commands at the brigade, battalion and company level, and in 2010 was the commander of the Delaware Army National Guard Embedded Training Team and le a deployment to Bamyan, Afghanistan. During that year-long tour, he and his team were responsible for training Afghanistan National Police and Defense Forces in the province.

Berry recently retired from the Delaware State Police after 28 years. A lieutenant in the DSP, he served as deputy troop commander at Troop 4 in Georgetown.

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