By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
WYANDOTTE – It was quiet and cold, yet solemn and reverent, as local veteran groups and residents gathered to honor Vietnam veterans on March 29, National Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day.
Participating in the remembrance were Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts 552 and 1136, American Legion Posts 74 and 217, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Marine Corps League, Disabled Veterans of America, the Polish League of American Veterans and Scouts BSA Troop 177.
The Canadian Vietnam veterans who had planned to attend were prevented due to current pandemic border restrictions.
Mike Goodpaster, commander of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 259, which served as host, said the day helps ensure that those who served, during this difficult time in American history, are remembered, and he recognized the late Mayor Joe Peterson, who was a Vietnam veteran.
“Joe was a proud Vietnam veteran and a tremendous advocate for all those that suffered from the effects of Agent Orange,” he said. “Mayor Peterson lived a life of selfless service, and was a great leader and a wonderful comrade.”
Goodpaster noted that the first American combat mission against the Viet Cong occurred on Jan. 12, 1962, and on March 29, 1973 the last U.S. troops left Vietnam.
He cited somber statistics: More than 58,000 U.S. military personnel were killed, of whom 33,103 were 18 years old; 997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam; and 1,448 were killed on their last day of duty in Vietnam.
Goodpaster said Wyandotte lost 12 residents to the war, who are recognized on a monument: Richard Hollingsworth, Christopher P. Johnson, Patrick R. Callahan, Cecil R. Hobbs, Thomas E. Raubolt, Robert D. Jenkins, Billy J. Taylor, George Cunningham, Henry P. Baldwin, Danny K. Yelley, George B. Tear and John J. Lafler.
“Our presence here is in solemn commemoration of all these men – an expression of our tribute to their devotion to duty, to their courage and to their patriotism,” he said. “By their services on land, on sea and in the air, they have made us their debtors.”
Mayor Robert DeSana said that in 1972, he was an 18-year-old high school senior concerned about friends and relatives who already were in Vietnam.
“I have one up here, Thomas Raubolt, who was a very good friend of our family,” he said, pointing to the monument behind him. “Every time I see his brother, Dave, and his sister, Bonnie, it brings back memories from that terrible time.”
DeSana thanked all those who served to protect the nation’s freedom, and read a formal proclamation on behalf of the city.
The rifle squad from American Legion Post 217 performed a salute, taps was played, the colors were retired and VFW Chaplain Terry Baxter closed the ceremony with a benediction.