Letter to the Editor: Saluting the Vietnam veteran

Sunday is Vietnam Veterans Day, and events have been cancelled throughout the nation for coronavirus safety reasons.

Our Kent County Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 850 is combining this day with Memorial Day on May 25 at 2 p.m. at the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park. Hopefully, we will all be out of the deepest part of the woods by then. While we’re still active in reaching out to succeeding generations of veterans, many of whom are our children and grandchildren, nature reminds us we are in our 70s and particularly vulnerable to this virus.

The Vietnam Veterans of America is a national nonprofit corporation founded in 1978 and committed to serving the needs of all veterans. Its founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

27dsn Skocik by .
Dave Skocik

Those were the days when we witnessed previous veterans (often our fathers) suffering the after-effects of wounds, radiation, cancers, and psychological injuries while being forgotten and called malingerers.

Similarly, returning Vietnam vets with physical disabilities, PTSD, chemical poisoning, and for many, the additional stigma of being blamed for the war, were told to discard their uniforms upon arrival at the airport.

Since then, the VVA fought in court to force the government and chemical companies to admit that while the chemicals used to defoliate the jungle did save lives, it also ultimately cost of lives of many exposed to it.

That’s why some 3,600 names have been and are still being added to a supplemental memorial at The Wall, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., with a bronze plaque inscribed “In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”

Here in Dover, raising private funds for the Kent County Veterans Memorial Park began in 2007 when 30 reluctant Chapter 850 members agreed to be part of the American Legion’s July 4 parade, coincidentally behind a float playing Lee Greenwood’s classic tune “I’m Proud to be an American.” Battle-hardened veterans got “dust in their eyes” when members of the crowd yelled “Welcome home.”

That cathartic event led to today’s membership of more than 235 Vietnam veterans, 35 associate members, and overwhelming public support for our memorial park that three times a year honors Kent Countians of all wars who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. The chapter is also noted for its public engagement, including scholarships and support for service dogs for disabled veterans.

In conclusion, the efforts of the VVA national and local organizations has evolved to advocating for those who served after us. These brave men and women, with the support of their families, proudly and ably stand the watch in our stead.

God bless the fewer than one percent of our population willing to protect and defend us here and across the globe.

Next time you see a Vietnam vet greet him or her with “Welcome home!” You may not get a hug ,but expect a thumbs up and a smile.

Dave Skocik is public affairs officer of Delaware Council of Vietnam Veterans of America. He live in Dover.