Ceremony honors Vietnam War veterans
Vietnam War veterans were honored and thanked for their service during a ceremony which was held last Saturday afternoon at the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna.
The ceremony to honor men and women who served during the Vietnam War was presented by the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, IDVA.
During the ceremony, Vietnam War veterans were honored with a 50-year commemoration pin.
The national commemoration was authorized by Congress, established under the Secretary of Defense, and launched by the President.
In 2007, the 110th Congress incorporated language in H.R. 4986 authorizing the Secretary of Defense to conduct a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
“The celebration is to honor and thank veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war, or listed as missing in action, for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States, and to thank and honor the families of these veterans,” IDVA director Erica Jeffries said.
“These veterans put their lives on the line for us. They deserve our recognition and respect for the sacrifices they undertook for our nation.”
The commemoration honors all veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces at any time between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, regardless of location.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that today there are 7 million living Vietnam veterans and 9 million families of those who served during this time frame.
The department noted that no distinction is made between veterans who served in-country, in-theater or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period.
All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably, the department noted.
The keynote address was delivered by Earl White of Salem. White is the Southern Division field supervisor for IDVA. He is a Vietnam veteran.
“We salute all who served...during one of the painful chapters in our history,” White said.
White said that those who served during the Vietnam era were heroes.
“You did your job...you served with honor,” White said. As White spoke, he paused, his voice breaking with emotion.
White joined with all of those in attendance in recognizing the Vietnam veterans who were in attendance.
State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, also was one of the many guests who attended Saturday’s ceremony.
Bryant said the recognition for the Vietnam War veterans was long overdue. She thanked all of the veterans for their service.
The master of ceremonies for the event was Nicole N. Mandeville, senior program manager at IDVA. Mandeville delivered introductions and special remarks.
Mandeville also highlighted the symbolism of a commemoration lapel pin which was presented to all of the Vietnam veterans in attendance.
The symbols on the pin include:
•An eagle, representing courage, honor and dedicated service to the nation.
•A blue circle, matching the canton on the American flag and signifying vigilance, perseverance and justice.
•A laurel wreath, representing victory, integrity and strength.
•Stripes, representing the American flag.
•Six stars, which represent the six allies who served, sacrificed and fought alongside each other, including Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and the United States.
•A message, “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”
Anthony Barnett, acting adjutant at the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
A proclamation by Gov. Bruce Rauner recognizing Vietnam Veterans Day in Illinois was read by Renysha Brown, who is chief of staff at IDVA. Brown also delivered closing remarks at the ceremony.
Saturday’s ceremony also included the singing of the National Anthem and “God Bless America” by LaShonna Loveless, Sherry Pinnon and Deidra Coleson; an invocation and benediction delivered by Phil Ray, chaplain with the Marine Corps League; and music on bagpipes presented by Paul Thompson, The Town Piper.