By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – Local veteran groups held a National Vietnam Veterans tribute March 29 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, at Superior Boulevard and Van Alstyne Street, with the late Mayor Joe Peterson spotlighted.
Peterson, who died May 17, 2020, served in Vietnam, and advocated for other veterans who, like him, suffered from the effects of exposure to the defoliant chemical Agent Orange.
Also participating were the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Marine Corps League.
Mike Goodpaster, commander of the local Vietnam Veterans of America, said National Vietnam Veterans Day commemorates veterans who died in the war, those who died as a result of the war and those still living.
He said the war in Vietnam was the longest and most challenging war in which the U.S. has ever engaged.
“Today we pay tribute to those we have laid to rest, and we reaffirm our dedication by showing a generation of veterans the respect and support of a grateful nation,” Goodpaster said. “Years of combat left their imprint on a generation.”
He said more than 58,000 personnel died in Vietnam, and many more returned with physical wounds, post-traumatic stress disorder and illnesses caused by exposure to Agent Orange.
“Yet, in one of the war’s most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected, to face treatment unbefitting their courage,” Goodpaster said.
He said 12 Wyandotte men died in Vietnam.
Goodpaster said that, of the 58,320 names memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington, D.C., 33,103 were just 18 years old, 997 soldiers died their first day in Vietnam, and 1,448 were killed on their last official day of duty in Vietnam.
“Our presence here is in solemn commemoration to their devotion to duty, to their courage and to their patriotism,” he said. “They have made us their debtors, and we are assembled once again to express our sincere reverence.”
Bill Rice, commander of the local American Legion Post 217, said the Vietnam veterans are worthy of a far greater recognition than words or monuments.
“The sacrifices they made, and the deeds they performed shall be written in history and shall remain alive in our memories for generations to come,” he said. “We express sincerely our pride and gratitude for the task they fulfilled.”