By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Vietnam veterans were remembered during a noon ceremony March 29, National Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day, at the city’s Veterans Memorial, north of Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave.
Phil Smith of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council spoke at the ceremony, recalling the unpopular war which he said took boys and girls and returned men and women.
“Freedom is not free, and all gave some, and some gave all,” he said. “Let us not forget those who have paid the price, like the 58,390 whose names are on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., and those who remain MIA and POW.”
Smith said that among the Vietnam veterans who made it home, many have sickened and died before their time from exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange, which was used extensively in Southeast Asia during the war.
He said that the Vietnam Veterans of America James L. Huard Chapter 267 has lost 86 Vietnam veterans since its 1983 founding.
Smith said life expectancy for Vietnam veterans is 66 years, versus 78 years for the veterans of other wars, and said of the 217,000 Michigan veterans who served in Vietnam, only about 18,000 are still alive.
The Dearborn Allied War Veterans ritual team performed a gun salute, and taps was played.
Dearborn Heights Mayor Bill Bazzi, who serves as the commander of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council, thanked the veterans present, especially the Vietnam veterans, for their service.
“You did an amazing job for us, and I want to welcome you home,” he said. “We don’t want to talk about the past, but today is our future, and I want to thank you for your service.”
He said the Vietnam veterans deserved recognition 50 years ago.
“Since I have been the commander of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council, you guys have always stepped up, and are the first to volunteer for everything – the parades and every event that we have for veterans,” he said. “You are always on the front lines for us. I thank you so much, and I thank you for your service.”