Hundreds honored at Southern Utah Veterans Home for National Vietnam War Veterans Day

Army Vietnam veterans are honored for National Vietnam War Veterans Day by the Color Country Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, Ivins, Utah, March 29, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

IVINS — In commemoration of the day when the final U.S. troops were evacuated from the theater of combat in Vietnam, dignified ceremonies were held all across the nation Friday, including in Southern Utah.

L-R: Doug Hunt, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter #961 member; Valerie King, regent of Daughters of the American Revolution Color Country Chapter; St. George Mayor Jon Pike; and Daughters of the American Revolution members Patricia Moseman Beverly, Harper and Judith Scott at St. George City Hall, St George, Utah, March 21, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the CCDAR, St. George News

Over 180 Vietnam veterans were joined by family and friends in observance of National Vietnam War Veterans Day at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins Friday afternoon in a gathering led by the Color Country Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution.

Veterans of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines filled the home’s conference room from wall-to-wall to be honored with their fellow vets. The ceremony also gave special recognition to over 2,500 prisoners of war, around 1,250 still missing-in-action and 58,000 soldiers who died, 361 of whom were from Utah.

In recognition of the 50,000 Vietnam veterans who currently call Utah home, St. George Mayor Jon Pike has also declared March 29 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,” signing an official proclamation and presenting it to Daughters of the American Revolution Regent Valerie King during a public meeting earlier this month.

The proclamation urges all departments of government, civic, fraternal, patriotic groups and citizens to observe the day “to honor those who had served and to extend gratitude and appreciation to both them and their families.”

Bruce Raftery, public information officer for Vietnam Veterans of America Southern Utah Chapter 961, was invited to be keynote speaker at the veterans home event. He told St. George News that for some of these veterans, it is a long overdue welcome home. Because many like himself suffered from survivor’s guilt and the realities of what they witnessed during combat and when they returned home, some soldiers have stayed in the shadows for years and refuse to speak to anyone about their deployment.

Vietnam veteran Bruce Raftery keynotes a celebration of National Vietnam War Veterans Day at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins, Utah, Mar 29, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

Raftery said he hopes events like these will let his fellow servicemen know to they are welcome to join their group in supporting one another and other veterans in the area.

During the ceremony, the crowd rose to salute flags led in by Dixie High School’s Air Force Junior ROTC color guard. To a room full of service medals and purple hearts, Snow Canyon High School’s Abraham Lamoreaux, a recipient of Daughters of the American Revolution’s Good Citizen award, sang a rousing rendition of the national anthem that had the entire audience join in, many singing with tears in their eyes.

King was thrilled at the response and turnout for the event. Her group of Color Country Chapter volunteers work all year to support local veterans. She told the crowd she was grateful to member Patricia Moseman for being the lead organizer for the day’s festivities.

“The DAR motto is very simple, God, home, country,” King said, adding the group was thankful to God for the opportunity to honor the men and women who have served, especially the Vietnam veterans who were in the room.

“We are so thankful to this wonderful place, this amazing veterans home, to offer our respect and give tribute to those that have honorably served,” she said. “We are so thankful too for this country and all the many blessings it offers us. Our beautiful home of the free because of the brave men and women that have served and continue to serve to preserve our most precious freedoms.”

Before the official award presentation began, Daughters of the American Revolution’ chaplin Judith Scott led the room in a solemn prayer, and a large group of students from the Little Harvard Academy arrived to present individual gift bags and sing their own patriotic tune of appreciation.

Ivins Mayor Chris Hart said he hopes everyone in this county and elsewhere stand to honor veterans on this day and recognize the duty they fulfilled to their country.

“You are heroic figures for having done so. I personally salute you and I know that all of our friends that are gathered here today have that same feeling in their heart as well,” Hart said. “Thank you. God bless you.”

Raftery, a marine originally from California who is now a Utah resident, served in Vietnam from 1966-1967. In addition to the veterans, he thanked the spouses and nonveterans for their presence and bid everyone welcome.

“To my brothers and sisters from Vietnam, I say ‘welcome home,'” Raftery said. “To the women veterans that are here, I say, ‘Oorah!'”

He said he has a deep respect for the women of the corp, especially since his mother was a second-generation marine in World War II and had the distinction of being a drill instructor. He jokingly told the crowd to imagine how fun his life was. She was not a happy camper when he was sent to Vietnam.

Army Vietnam veterans are honored for National Vietnam War Veterans Day by the Daughters of the American Revolution at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins, Utah, Mar 29, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

“It’s been and may still be hard to share your story, but you’re not a victim for doing so, though. You’re a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth,” Raftery said. “We all have lived one. We all may continue to live a truth that nobody else can put their finger on, that sometimes even our loved ones don’t understand.”

The POW flag has four words listed across the bottom, “You Are Not Forgotten.” Raftery said that saying goes for every veteran in the room.

“You are not forgotten. It’s taken 50 years maybe for people to remember us, but now that they do, we are here and we’re strong,” he said, adding that as vets they deserve everything they have and are going to get in the future. “We need to be proud of who we are and what we did.”

Raftery said Gen. George S. Patton made a statement in 1945 that he felt deserves repeating:

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.

“Let us do better to respect all servicemen and women from now on,” Raftery said. “We need courage to treat all veterans and servicemen decent. We need more compassion, more empathy and more sensitivity to others’ plights as well as being more insightful to others’ sufferings and pain.”

Vietnam Veterans of America Southern Utah Chapter 961 president Danny Greathouse said he was one of the many soldiers that didn’t discuss his time in service with anyone for many years, including his own wife. He said for all the veterans who may not want to admit their service because they actually never went to Vietnam, he honors them just as much as any other.

“Without you, we wouldn’t have gotten what we needed from back home,” Greathouse said, adding that many of them may have put up with more ridicule since they were stateside every day during the war. “Thank you for those who were back home and helping us.”

Starting with members of the Army, which was the largest group represented, the veterans were called up front for a barrage of group photos, grateful handshakes, commemorative pins and award certificates to recognize their dedication to America. Each also received a copy of “A Time to Honor,” with photographs and stories of their duty and sacrifice in the decade-long war.

“I don’t regret any minute of being in Vietnam. I don’t regret any minute of being in the service,” Greathouse said. “Thank you again for the Daughters of the Revolution for doing this for us today and thank you all for coming out here.”

Email: apinckney@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @andrewjpinckney

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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