Vietnam veterans honored Saturday

Published 4:03 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

“I’ve been to a lot of events in my time,” interrupted John Gallaspy, “but this is the best I’ve ever attended.”

He and Supreme Court Associate Justice Greg Guidry were among the more than 100 people in attendance Saturday morning as Vietnam veterans were honored at the American Legion Magic City Post 24 Hall. The Washington Republican Parish Executive Committee has partnered with the U.S. Dept. of Defense to find and honor the Vietnam Era veterans during the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War.

State Sen. Beth Mizell spoke of “The Wall That Heals,” the Vietnam Memorial travelling exhibit that will be displayed at the Fairgrounds in Franklinton this November. Her efforts to secure the exhibit were a highlight as she detailed how she became involved and the effort to secure it.

The keynote speaker for the event was Ret. U.S. Army Col. Evans Spiceland, who has been appointed by President Donald Trump to serve on the U.S. Battlefield Monuments Commission. Having served two tours in Vietnam, Spiceland spoke of the need for soldiers to teach young people the principles of duty and patriotism.

“When we were called, we were there,” he said. “We need to teach them the experiences we had. Write them down so your children can read about service and duty.

“There was a time in America when everybody knew or was related to someone in the service. That is no longer the case, and schools don’t teach what you know.”

Post Commander Bobby Latino ordered the meeting, which began with a stirring rendition of the national anthem by trumpeter Gary Rushing. Chaplain Paul Corse gave a poignant description of the symbols maintained in honor of those still missing in action or prisoners of war. His explanation brought tears to the eyes of many — especially from family members of deceased veterans.

Ret. U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Jim Montgomery coordinated the American Legion effort, while Don Crist organized the efforts of the Washington Republican Executive Committee team. American Legion Auxiliary members joined to provide a luncheon for guests.

“The real honor is ours,” said Phillipp Bedwell, chairman of the Washington Republican Parish Executive Committee. “These heroes returned from war, often to ridicule, from a public who confused the war they hated with the heroes who served. These men and women raised their hand to defend the Constitution of the United States and had no choice in where they were sent.

“We are thrilled to be able to represent the U.S. Dept. of Defense — to thank these veterans ‘on behalf of a grateful nation.’”

Each Vietnam veteran in attendance was called by name and was presented with a lapel pin depicting the seal of the 50th Anniversary Commission. Surviving spouses received a pin and a certificate from Latino, Spiceland and Mizell. “God Bless America” was sung by all in attendance and a huge group photo of more than 50 recipients was taken. But before Latino could adjourn, Gallaspy interrupted to compliment the American Legion and the Washington Republican Parish Executive Committee on the event provided.

This article was written by Don Crist, for The Daily News.