Veterans welcomed home on National Vietnam War Veterans Day

Julia LeDoux
March 29, 2019 - 3:22 pm
Wreath laying at The Wall

Photo by Julia LeDoux

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The haunting sound of Taps sounded over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Friday as visitors paused to honor and remember the sacrifice of those who served in the conflict on National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

A hush fell over the crowd as members of Fox Force – a group of Vietnam veterans who fought with 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, solemnly laid a wreath at the Wall in tribute to their fallen comrades-in-arms.

“We’re here to celebrate the fact that we came home and honor those who didn’t,” said retired Army Lt. Col. John Hadley.

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Hadley was a young 1st lieutenant assigned to the unit 50 years ago. He recalled fierce battles and the camaraderie of the American troops who were sent to Vietnam.

“When the chips were down, it didn’t matter what color uniform you wore,” he said.

Photographs, tributes and mementos lined the Wall.  

Former service members wearing hats reading “Vietnam Veteran” reached out to touch the Wall and remember.

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“People should remember what these guys did,” said Navy veteran and Vietnam veteran Paul Schmidt. “I know 10 guys who are on here. They didn’t get the chances I did. I came home. I have a family. They didn’t get that.”

Toni Strate’s husband, Bill, was a member of Fox Force. Even though he died of an Agent Orange-related illness n 2008, Toni said the bond that exists between the men remains strong.

 “He would look at these guys and it was like nothing changed,” she said. “Some of them served as his pallbearers.”

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Margaret Jacobs of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina said that even though no one in her family is serving in the military it is important to remember the sacrifice of those who did. She wiped tears from her eyes as she made an etching of one of the names on the Wall, Samuel F. Fields.

“They deserved a better homecoming than they got,” she said.

President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 into law on March 28, 2017. It recognized March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

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