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Honoring Vietnam veterans

The Washington County Commission honored Vietnam veterans during a ceremony Thursday morning at the Washington County courthouse.

Washington County Presiding Commissioner Marvin Wright said March 29 is recognized as Vietnam Veterans Day. 

“We are here to honor their service and the President had declared this as the Vietnam War Veterans Day for Vietnam,” said Wright. “The state is doing a program at Jefferson City and we thought we should at least acknowledge the people of the county who have participated in that endeavor.”

“Richard Nixon was the first president to call for Americans to recognize March 29 as a national holiday,” said Wright. “Fifty years later, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 29, 2012 as Vietnam Veterans Day and asked all Americans recognize the day with programs, ceremonies and activities to commemorate the 50-year anniversary.”

Wright said this is the first time Washington County Courthouse has hosted a ceremony like this to honor those who served in the Vietnam War. He was happy with the turnout. 

The ceremony started off with the Presentation of the Colors and an invocation by Rev. Bill Brammer. Jennifer Rugh, an employee in the prosecutor’s office, sang the National Anthem.

Vietnam Veteran Don Becker was a guest speaker during the ceremony and prepared quite a speech. He began by saying he knows they are all veterans, but he wants everyone to take a moment, not only Thursday, but every day, to think about, remember and thank those who are presently serving in the military today.

“They deserve our greatest gratitude. I would like to say that I am very happy and very proud to be here representing the Vietnam veterans,” said Becker. “I am very proud to be a veteran, to be a Vietnam veteran, and I’m very proud of the service that I rendered our country.”

Becker said there is nothing glamorous about war. He said he served three years in the Army. He was drafted on Valentine’s Day in 1966.

“So I always kind of referred to myself as ‘Uncle Sam’s Little Valentine,’” said Becker. “I was 19 years of age and the first year I was in basic training as a combat engineer.”

Becker described his third year in the service when he was in Vietnam. He explained he held many different positions while over there.

“I have been walking around all these years saying that I am a veteran, but I really don’t know what the word means,” said Becker. “So I looked it up and the first thing they describe as a veteran is someone who is old and experienced. Well … I certainly qualify there because I am old and believe me, I gained a lot of experience in Vietnam, as you all did.”

Becker said it also stated a veteran is a person of long service in some position and he qualified for that also because in Vietnam, seconds could be a long time in one position. He added the third definition is someone who served in the armed forces.

“We haven’t all volunteered for the armed forces like now — back then they had the draft,” said Becker. “What a better pool of young men than these teenage boys … We thought nothing of being drafted … We thought it was a natural thing to grow up and get drafted to serve in the military.”

Becker said the boys of rural Missouri were a bonus for the military because they could shoot a squirrel in the head with a .22. They were excellent physical shape, used to working and easy to train.

“I used to think what a unique person a veteran is. The military would take this young man, draft him into the Army … and within six months would teach them to be a killer,” said Becker. “Within six months, you could, you would and you were expected to kill people. Think about that, folks.”

Becker said then when the military was through with them, all they did was give you a plane ticket and tell you to go home. They didn’t train you to not do what you were doing.

“When you get home it is a tough thing, because you had been high on this energy of what you were doing in Vietnam,” said Becker. “I think most of us did a pretty good job at getting home and returning to normal society. I know in my case I had my family, neighbors, community and church all help me re-adjust to simulating myself back into normal society.”

Judy Wright was in attendance at the ceremony. She said there are so many men and women who never talk about their service or what they did during Vietnam. She added they are suffering in silence and it’s time everyone supports them a little bit more.

Leslie Harmon said the ceremony was very touching and it brought a lot of things back about what her dad said about his service in Vietnam.

“It was very touching and I hope to see more ceremonies in the future,” said Harmon. “I think if we could get a lot of these younger people involved to see and hear what they have to say, they would find it interesting.”

Vietnam Veteran Richard Koch said he really liked the ceremony and thought that anytime they can do any kind of ceremony to honor the veterans, it is good for the community.

“This is something that brings everybody together and it’s something everybody needs,” said Koch. “I, myself, was drafted while I was in Vietnam. They sent a notice to the house and my parents sent it me. It was fun trying to get them to send him home.”

The ceremony finished off with Wright reading the Washington County resolution to the crowd, followed by an Honor Guard Salute and the playing of Taps.

During the ceremony there was an Honor Guard Salute and Taps was played by a Vietnam veteran to close out the ceremony.</p><p class=

View additional photos and videos online at dailyjournalonline.com” width=”800″ /> During the ceremony there was an Honor Guard Salute and Taps was played by a Vietnam veteran to close out the ceremony.

View additional photos and videos online at dailyjournalonline.com

Vietnam Veteran Don Becker speaks during a ceremony for Vietnam veterans at the Washington County Courthouse Thursday morning.

Vietnam Veteran Don Becker speaks during a ceremony for Vietnam veterans at the Washington County Courthouse Thursday morning.

The Washington County Courthouse lobby filled for a special ceremony to honor Vietnam veterans Thursday morning.

The Washington County Courthouse lobby filled for a special ceremony to honor Vietnam veterans Thursday morning.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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