Ceremony honors Vietnam-era veteransWritten by Paige Shermis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In conjunction with the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall’s stay in Toledo, the Toledo Ohio Vietnam Era Veterans Appreciation Event took place on June 5.
The event, at the University of Toledo Savage Arena, included the Opening Ceremony for the Wall’s stay in Toledo and an Honor Roll Call for all veterans in attendance.
Duke Wheeler, a Christmas tree farmer from Whitehouse, helped organize the event and bring the Traveling Wall to Toledo.
“I [want] to show these veterans how much we appreciate their sacrifices and to honor them. They fought a war that was a bad war, and that was not their fault. We should have honored them when they came home,” Wheeler said.
The Opening Ceremony began with the presentation of colors. Next, the Maumee High School Select Singers sang the National Anthem, “Simple Gifts” and “Amazing Grace.” A prayer by Ben Snyder, south Toledo lead pastor of Cedar Creek Church followed.
Marines Roy Hernandez, who served from 1963-’67, and Bob Baker, who served from 1967-’70, then performed a tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action, with Hernandez giving a speech on those soldiers who were missing or taken prisoner as Baker rang a silver bell. A small dining table was set for one person on stage, the empty place symbolizing that of all the POW/MIAs. Hernandez explained the meaning of each item on the table, from the color of the tablecloth to the lit candle.
University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1958-’64, Mayor Mike Bell and U.S. Air Force Colonel Steven Nordhaus gave welcoming remarks, followed by a short video message from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Hagel, who was invited to the ceremony but could not attend because he was out of the country, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1967-’68.
The Opening Ceremony’s keynote speaker was USMC Lt. Gen. Robert A. Tiebout, retired, who served in Vietnam from 1967-8.
“The Wall is a very moving thing. The Wall came in my home in Tennessee and I dedicated it [there]. It’s so moving because when you look at it, you visualize 50,000 young men that were in their youth, the best times of their life, and didn’t hesitate a minute. They did what they had to do to do their job and maintain their freedom. They haven’t enjoyed this longevity that I have; I was fortunate. They gave it all,” Tiebout said after the ceremony.
Tiebout’s speech was followed by the honor roll call, in which all Vietnam-era veterans were invited onstage to receive a special coin as their names were announced to the hall. The challenge coins, given to the veterans, are steeped in military tradition and rooted in nostalgia and membership ties.
Some veterans accepted coins on behalf of themselves and their brothers, who were killed in Vietnam. Several men’s wives also accepted coins on behalf of their husbands.
After the roll call was complete, the official songs of each branch of the military (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard) were played, and the veterans were invited to stand when their branch’s song was played. Only one man stood for the Coast Guard’s song, and was met with loud applause.
The evening’s master of ceremonies, Navy Lt. Haraz N. Ghanbari, USN, who serves as the military and media liaison at the University of Toledo, gave closing remarks. The ceremony ended with a live performance of “Taps” by Jeff Worthen, one of the only musicians in the area who performs the song live. Worthen served in the U.S. Army from 1964-’67.
After the event, Tiebout remarked on his treatment upon returning from war.
“It was not good. It was not a good situation. There were a lot of demonstrations. As a matter of fact, it was such that the uniform was not to be worn in a lot of places because of the antagonistic views of some people of the veterans,” he said.
However, the way soldiers and veterans are looked at now in this country is much different, he said.
“The attitudes have turned around 100 percent. People are very patriotic right now. They just appreciate veterans, wherever they come from. They stop and they talk to them. The uniform is worn and recognized. The healing after Vietnam [started] probably eight to nine years after Vietnam ended,” he said.
Attendee Robert Rickard, a Toledoan, served in Bien Hoa, Vietnam, from 1971-73.
“[Attending] was kind of a last minute thing … but it was pretty neat,” he said.
The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will be in International Park until 4 p.m. June 9. The process to get the Wall to Toledo has been in the works since 2010, Wheeler said.
Events related to the Traveling Wall and Vietnam-era veterans will take place through the weekend. The 7 p.m. Mud Hens game on June 6 is free for all Vietnam-era veterans, who can show their DD214 form at will call for a free ticket. The unveiling ceremony for a bronze plaque commemorating local Vietnam-era veterans will take place at the All Wars Memorial in Downtown Toledo on June 7. The closing ceremony at the Traveling Wall will take place June 9 at 4 p.m.
“We need to pull together and appreciate the sacrifices of over 58,281 people that died, the youngest being 15 years old. That’s a part of history that is ugly for the country but we can’t forget it, otherwise it will repeat itself,” Wheeler said.
For a full schedule of events, visit www.toledoveteransevent.com.
Tags: Bob Baker, Cedar Creek Church, Duke Wheeler, Haraz N. Ghanbari, Lloyd Jacobs, Maumee High School Select Singers, Mike Bell, Robert A. Tiebout, Robert Rickard, Roy Hernandez, Toledo Ohio Vietnam Era Veterans Appreciation Event, University of Toledo Savage Arena, Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall