Vietnam veterans thanked for their service

Kelly Hicks (right), a member of Plain City’s chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), affixes a special Vietnam War Veteran lapel pin to Ron Price’s shirt. Price served in the U.S. Army near the Cambodia border in 1966-67. The pinning ceremony was part of a program DAR hosted to honor Plain City area veterans.

(Posted May 31, 2023)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The hum of friendly conversation filled the gymnasium at Sharon Mennonite Church on May 20 as approximately 50 Vietnam War era veterans and their loved ones enjoyed lunch, courtesy of the Plain City chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

The occasion was part of an ongoing nationwide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War era which started on Nov. 1, 1955, and ended on May 15, 1975. The last combat units from the United States left South Vietnam on March 29, 1973.

In 2012, President Barack Obama signed a proclamation setting the commemoration period as Memorial Day 2012 to Veterans Day 2025. Organizations throughout the country have been holding events to honor those who served, their families, and the organizations and allies who provided support during the war.

Lt. Col. Ken Bonnell, a Vietnam War veteran, speaks about service and sacrifice.

“We want to give (the veterans) the honor and tribute they did not receive at the time,” said Janet Kaufman, Plain City DAR regent and organizer of the May 20 event.

After lunch, the hum in the gymnasium quieted as the recognition program began. Lt. Col. Ken Bonnell with the Union County Military Family Support Group served as guest speaker. Bonnell’s military service includes two tours of duty in Vietnam. He is the recipient of six awards for bravery and two Purple Heart medals, among many other acknowledgements for his commitment to military service.

Annetta Dellinger looks at her husband, John, with pride after she attached a special Vietnam War Veteran pin to his shirt. John served in the Army National Guard in Marysville during the Vietnam War era.

Bonnell talked about the criticism and negative labels he and his fellow Vietnam War era veterans endured during and after the war.

“This labeling caused others to look at Vietnam veterans as being ‘flawed’ and as ‘damaged goods,’” he said.

“Our reputation and treatment has gotten a lot better over the years, however, I often felt the need to introduce myself as if I was in an AA meeting: ‘My name is Ken Bonnell, and I am a Vietnam veteran.’ Well, listen up, everybody. I am dang proud to be a Vietnam vet, and so should you!”

Bonnell talked about the distinct memories he and his fellow veterans have based on their military specialties and when and where they served.

Kevin Mabry sings “America The Beautiful.”

“Regardless of when you served or where you served… your service was necessary for the defense of our great nation, for what our nation stands for, and for the defense of people in other nations striving to attain similar freedoms,” he told the crowd.

He also turned the spotlight on the family members in the audience.

“Let me stress that the spouses and immediate family members of Vietnam era veterans also served and sacrificed in their own right on behalf of our nation,” he said.

A pinning ceremony followed Bonnell’s message. Lt. Gen. Charles Stenner read the names of veterans present. As each name was called, a loved one or a DAR member pinned a special Vietnam Veteran pin on the veteran’s lapel. Pins also were given to a handful of surviving spouses.

A proclamation from Plain City Mayor Jody Carney was read. To bring the commemoration to a close, Kevin Mabry sang “God Bless America” and Douglas Weakley played “Taps.”

A commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War era took place in Plain City on May 20. Each veteran and veteran’s surviving spouse received a special lapel pin. The message on the back of the pin reads: “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin
Any veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces anytime between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, regardless of location of service, is eligible to receive a special Vietnam Veteran lapel pin.

The symbolism of the images on the pin’s front are:

• Eagle–Represents courage, honor, and dedicated service to the nation.

• Blue circle–The blue matches the canton of the American flag and signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

• Laurel wreath–A time-honored symbol representing victory, integrity, and strength.

• Stripes–Represent the American flag.

• Stars–The six stars represent the allies who fought alongside one another: Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the United States.

Karen Meredith Ross (right) smiles as her granddaughter, Peyton Reiver, affixes a special lapel pin to her shirt during a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War era. The event honors not only veterans but also surviving spouses of veterans. Karen’s husband, Les Ross, served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. He passed away two years ago.

The message on the back of the pin reads: “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.” The official name of the commemoration is included, as well, reminding each veteran that this is a national initiative, and the pin is the nation’s memento of thanks.

Marge Bailey affixes a special Vietnam War Veteran lapel pin to her husband Don’s shirt. Don served in the U.S. Army aviation in 1965 and 1969.
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