PINETOP – LAKESIDE — One of the most moving events that took place at The Wall That Heals (The Wall) this weekend was the Pinning Ceremony by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2364 on Saturday, Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.
Another heartfelt attempt of the country to heal the open wounds left by the often inhospitable return from the controversial war was upheld by The Wall replica which served as the backdrop for the pinning ceremony.
The Vietnam War is listed as the second-longest war in United States history, dating all the way back to the Truman administration.
As a commemorative partner with the The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, Commemorative Chairman Roger Stevens of VFW Post 2364 recognized the efforts put forth by the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside in bringing The Wall to the community.
Following a welcome and statement regarding the The Wall and its significance by Pinetop-Lakeside Mayor Stephanie Irwin, Stevens, on behalf of VFW Post 2364, presented a special memorial plaque of gratitude to Irwin to thank the town for its efforts in bringing The Wall to the community.
Stevens spoke not only to Vietnam War Era Veterans but also to the family members and spouses whose husband/wife/family member did not return home.
“Whether deployed in harm’s way, all the while watching over your buddies as they watched over you, or training and serving at home station … you sacrificed. Our country, our community, our families and our children owe you a debt of gratitude,” said Stevens, as he asked for a show of hands of those who served.
Hands went up all over and Stevens and the crowd applauded them as heroes.
Stevens recapped the 2008 authorization to conduct a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War which led to the inaugural event at “The Wall” in Washington on Memorial Day, 2012 where President Barack Obama spoke.
“The President’s words were powerful. He stated, and I quote, ‘And one of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam — most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there. You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. And that’s why here today we resolve that it will not happen again,’” said Stevens.
Recalling the lack of recognition for the majority of Vietnam War Era veterans returning home not only to turmoil but without proper recognition, and with medical issues not understood, Stevens reiterated that the Vietnam War was a long war and that the commemoration was planned to also be a long one.
“By presidential proclamation, the Commemoration extends from Memorial Day 2012 through Veterans Day 2025. Through this Commemoration, we intend to offer the thanks of our nation to as many as possible of the 7.2 million living Vietnam veterans and the nine million families of those who served from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975,” said Stevens.
Stevens stated that no distinction has been made regarding the veterans who served in-country, in-theater or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War.
“While this is not the individual, hometown recognition we envisioned for each of you, I ask that every Vietnam Era Veteran among us please come forward, so we might recognize your service and sacrifice, and finally begin the ‘welcome home’ you so richly deserve,” said Stevens.
It was a long line of local Vietnam War Era veterans who came forward. Not only did they receive a commemorative pin but also a handshake — and sometimes a hug, or a salute — which equated to the proper recognition Stevens spoke of.
Not all veterans present were men. The women, though few, came forward also to receive their pin.
Following the veterans, wives or husbands or a family member of a deceased Vietnam War Era veteran were also presented a special recognition pin.
The Wall brought back many memories — smiles, tears and yes — also healing.