VIETNAM VETS Commemoration for service given 48 years later

Nov. 11—TRAVERSE CITY — It was on March 8th of 1965 when 3,500 U.S. Marines came ashore at Da Nang, Vietnam.

It was the very first wave of combat troops to enter Vietnam for a government that was dedicated to containing the spread of communist regimes, and for a nation that was still in the thick of the Cold War.

When all was said and done, by the time the last American combat solider left on March 29, 1973, the record showed 58,220 U.S. soldiers had been lost in the war, according to the U.S. National Archives. Those casualties don't include the hundreds of thousands lost to Agent Orange, as well as post-traumatic injuries that led to suicide.

For those who survived their long-enduring tours in Vietnam, the transition back home was not much easier.

Most service members coming home now receive their community's appreciation, parties or parades. Vietnam veterans barely got a pat on the back, let alone any sort of acknowledgement.

In 2008, Congress established the "United States of America Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Pinning Ceremony" to honor veterans of the Vietnam War.

This initiative is intended to pay tribute to Vietnam veterans for their contribution. Participating veterans or family members are honored with a commemorative lapel pin and a certificate of special recognition.

According to the Department of Defense's website dedicated to the program, this commemoration is for "living U.S. veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of location."

Recently, a pinning ceremony took place in Traverse City to commemorate Vietnam veterans from the 26th Combat Engineer Battalion, the 23rd Infantry Division. That unit was deployed to the Chu Lai base in Vietnam in September 1967.

Veterans from different parts of the country were recognized for their dedication and service in the Vietnam conflict. Representatives from the Job Winslow Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Traverse City) presented the pins to the 25 unit members in attendance.

The reunion of the 26th Combat Engineers was first initiated by Harold "Stan" Staley, who was also recognized for his heroism in the rescuing of fellow comrade Edward "Russ" Schlenker. For his actions, he was presented a Folds of Honor Blanket.

Linda Brandis, Past Regent and and service to Veteran Committee for the Michigan NSDAR was present to share a few words to the veterans and family members in attendance.

"I'm glad this is happening," she said, "I was there when my brother came home twice (from deployment), and many of these Vietnam veterans feel that they were not appreciated, welcomed home like veterans of other wars were."

Kathy Wilson, regent for the Job Winslow Chapter NSDAR, shared how the goal of the chapter is to continue to hold these ceremonies each year, and continue locating Vietnam veterans deserving of recognition for their service. "This is our first time having an event like this in the area," she said. "We're hoping to find more Vietnam veterans so we can continue doing this."

"You have to admit, very few of the Vietnam veterans want people to know they were in the Vietnam War. They're just now starting to wear their hats proudly, and to be proud of the fact they served their country because they were treated so poorly when they came home."

Those who served in Vietnam are deserving of this recognition, she said. Any Vietnam veterans or those who know of them, please contact the Job Winslow Chapter in Traverse City at