Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Honoring service: Area veterans and residents mark National Vietnam War Veterans Day




The Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a ceremony at the Western New York National Cemetery in Pembroke early Tuesday morning to honor the 9 million men and women who served during the Vietnam War. Botts-Fiorito American Legion Post 576 in Le Roy conducted a ceremony one later in the afternoon. There was a wreath laying ceremony followed by a volley and taps in both ceremonies.

“This date was chosen because it was this day in 1973 when the last American prisoners of war were released and safely returned home and when all combat troops were withdrawn from the war zone,” said David Rusmey, commander of Botts-Fiorito Post 576.

The Rev. Robert M. Stuart, a United States Marine Corps Vietnam veteran, said the 50 year anniversary of the Vietnam War was 2012.

“Remember, the Vietnam War was unpopular and decisive at home,” he said. “It was hotly debated in Congress. There were more demonstrations and more unrest as the war continued.”

Stuart said his parents were opposed to the war. They didn’t want their sons involved, even though his father served as a fighter pilot on two aircraft carriers during World War II. In 1966, Stuart was 20 years old and had friends serving in Vietnam.

“I was drafted in November 1966,” he said. “I was married and finished my second year at university. I enlisted for two years in the Marine Corps.”

Stuart said casualties were mounting in Vietnam — enemies were everywhere and blending in with a population of farmers and villagers living in poverty. He said he served in a maneuver battalion in 1968 that like other maneuver battalions took the lion share of casualties.

“My major concern was for my buddies in the platoon,” Stuart said. “Casualties continued to mount and replacements trickled in one by one. New guys had to learn fast and prove themselves.”

The Vietnam War lasted Nov. 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975. This makes the Vietnam War one of the longest wars involving the United States, and 2.7 million Americans served.

Those who served often returned to encounter a culture which was actively hostile to them and their service. They began to be recognized and honored in the ensuing decades for their dedication, service and sacrifice.

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