GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County veterans gathered Wednesday in Gallipolis for a motorcade and special ceremony marking 50 years since the first American military involvement in the Vietnam War.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4464 and American Legion Lafayette Post 27 led the charge as community groups and veterans glided down Second Avenue and turned along Court Street before stopping on First Avenue to conduct a brief ceremony in Gallipolis City Park to remember the fallen and living for their service.
Bill Mangus, commander of the Gallipolis VFW post, served as master of ceremonies and guest speaker. The VFW Post 4664 Honor Guard, along with Vietnam Veterans of America, placed a memorial wreath below the Doughboy memorial in City Park. The Rev. John Jackson led the invocation and William Holmes Jr. played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes during the ceremony.
Commander of American Legion Lafayette Post 27 Charlie Huber sang the American National Anthem. The crowd joined in unison for the American Pledge of Allegiance.
Larry Marr, commander of Vietnam Veterans of America, read the names of fallen Gallia County veterans who served in the Vietnam War. The VFW Honor Guard held a firing salute and John Watson of Post 4464 played Taps. Charlie Huber led the closing prayer.
“We want to thank each and every one of you who took time off your day to come here and share with this us,” Mangus said. “This is a very special day. It’s the 50th year reunion for the Vietnam vets. Brothers, sisters … I’ve waited 45 years for this. Welcome home, brothers and sisters.”
Mangus shared with the crowd what Vietnam’s conflict means to the combatants and individuals called to duty those years ago.
“Vietnam is getting up in the morning to walk to the mess hall and hearing a sniper fire round zip through the air above you,” Mangus said. “Vietnam is living in the bush in waist-deep mud. Vietnam is going weeks without a shower and marching naked into a wide river with a bar of soap. Vietnam is passing a cigarette around. A squad could make a pack last longer when you realize no one brought enough to last the entire mission. Vietnam is checking out your legs to get rid of leeches.”
Mangus thanked those who attended and asked members of the crowd and handed them the microphone to voice their stories about loved ones who had participated in the war. Veterans told the Tribune they appreciated the public coming out after having receiving so much negativity and disdain when having returned home when the war finally ended.
After the ceremony, the crowd was invited to partake in a dinner at the VFW hall on Third Avenue later in the evening.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.