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Guest Commentary: Why a Vietnam commemoration

I don't often feel compelled to write guest commentaries, but I decided to suspend any personal inhibitions to put some thoughts to paper regarding Vietnam War commemorations. Or should it be called The Second Indochina War? Or something else?

Anyway, I have recently, in Lake County, overheard some "philosophers" discussing the merits of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. The arguments offered by the "philosophers" were adamantly against what the U.S. had done in Vietnam, and, while eloquent and mildly passionate, were absolute "Bravo Sierra." Veterans who remember the phonetic alphabet we used in military communications should remember what that means. What bothered me was the presence of military veterans who kept silent as they were fed this "Bravo Sierra."

To the military veteran(s) — to let these individuals spew forth their misguided and misinformed opinions without defending the service of your brothers and sisters is a sin... my opinion. And we all have opinions about what our government does and why. I did say something to the affected "philosophers," but you can't debate or argue with ignorance. The anti-Vietnam faction should and often still does espouse their views on Vietnam. Opposing views are always good for the sake of debate or argument. But without a hard-core cadre of dedicated troops (veterans) to offer an opposing view, that's all those ignorant souls also in attendance will hear and too often understand and remember.

To the "philosophers" — unless you have had boots on the ground in Vietnam or Southeast Asia, or in any combat zone for that matter, who are you to disparage the service of those who went? Or the service of our "Cold Warriors" and Expeditionary troops in other parts of the world? (Yeah, that was mentioned, too.) But before I stray from the subject at hand, perhaps use some of that passion to help righting the wrong and the insult to our Vietnam veterans as they returned home. Maybe something simple like thanking someone for their service. You don't have to genuflect and kiss the hand, just say "thanks." That goes for anyone, for any service-member. That doesn't mean you agree with where the government ordered them to do, just that you recognize their service. Start with this, Tuesday is a day designated to remember or recognize those individuals who served in Vietnam, whether they were drafted or volunteered. It's a good day to recognize other veterans, too. There is a "Welcome Home" program at the Duluth Depot Great Hall Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. I encourage everyone, veteran or not, to attend.

There is also a Duluth Vet Center-sponsored Commemoration Pizza Social event, at 801 Highway 33 South in Cloquet. Call the Vet Center at (218) 722-8654 or the Lake County Veterans Service Office at 834-8326 to confirm the time.

Locally, I encourage veterans and non-veterans to DO SOMETHING of their choosing, whether it's a moment of silence or a square dance. Just remember to keep it dignified in recognition of the Vietnam veteran's service.

Vietnam and other returnees to the states were often spat upon, insulted, or otherwise threatened when they came back. For the ignorant ones, it's probably not a good idea to spit on or insult someone who is returning after surviving a combat zone. Just thought I'd throw that in here for your safety. We have many that now live in Lake County that were instructed to take off their uniforms before they went anywhere or headed home.

Let's say "thanks," at the least on this day, March 29, the day most combat troops left Vietnam (hence the significance of the day) to those who deserved it long ago. Some Lake County Vietnam Veterans of note, and in remembrance of:

• Capt. James J. Sherek, Silver Bay — Casualty: March 4, 1971, South Vietnam

• 1st Lt. Michael A. Smoger, Two Harbors — Casualty: May 24, 1968, Quang Nam, South Vietnam

• 1st Lt. Steven G Abbott, Two Harbors — Casualty: May 12, 1968, Quang Tri, South Vietnam

• Sgt. Patrick L. Kortesmaki, Silver Bay — Casualty: Aug. 16, 1968, Quang Tri, South Vietnam