by Becky GINOS
SALT LAKE CITY—A small crowd of proud veterans wearing pins and uniforms gathered on the west lawn of the Utah State Capitol March 29 to honor those who served in the Vietnam War.
In 2014, Gov. Gary Herbert designated March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Utah. Pres. Donald Trump declared it a national day of observance in 2017.
“We’re here to honor all those who served whether they had boots on the ground or in country,” said Dennis Howland, Utah State President Vietnam Veterans of America. “We also want to recognize the families who supported us. It was our war – 58,000 kids died for absolutely nothing. One in 10 that served in country were casualties of war. We want to leave behind the legacy that we served honorably and with integrity.”
After posting of the colors by the Utah Military Academy, a wreath was placed at the Vietnam Memorial monument on the Capitol grounds.
“There are great things for veterans in Utah,” said Gary Harter, executive director Utah Veterans and Military Affairs. “We try to work together for their needs. The receptions coming back then were different than today. The country is a much different place. You were never thanked. It’s taken a long time to say thank you for your service. A welcome home is long overdue. We will never forget.”
Former Utah State Representative Curt Oda who helped with legislation for Vietnam veterans while in office said it was an honor to carry those bills. “For the first time we can tell our veteran brothers and sisters welcome home,” said Oda. “It’s time to eliminate the word ‘era’ when we talk about the war. In no other conflict have we said that. There were several lines of support behind those soldiers on the front line.”
Howland and his organization have been working to bring a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. to Layton. It is currently under construction at Layton Commons Park.
“It was supposed to be 80 percent of the original,” Howland said of the replica. “But I had them make it 83 percent so we could honestly brag that it is the largest replica in the United States.”
The dedication is set for July 14, 2018. “We will walk to the wall and dedicate it,” said Howland.
A touching quote by Major Michael Davis O’Donnell from 1970 Dak To, Vietnam was on the back of the program:
If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and one backward glance when you are leaving, for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not always have. Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.
And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.
Major O’Donell, a UH1 Army pilot was killed in action in Cambodia on March 24, 1970. His aircraft was hit with a rocket while extracting an operation on the other side of the fence.