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Saying thank you

The Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore hosted a ceremony for Vietnam veterans on Saturday, Oct. 21, honoring the 50th anniversary of the war.

The event was hosted with assistance from the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Central Kentucky Committee for Veterans.

Vietnam Veteran  and Chaplain Dean Cook (Captain, U.S. Navy Retired) spoke to the veterans in attendance. He said that though feelings have always been mixed about the war, particularly by those who fought there, over time things have become more clear and understandable. His goal was to provide perspective on being one of those veterans.

“There were a lot of people who did not understand that conflict at that time,” Cook said. “Neither did I, but I have become wiser after I have studied, thought about it and prayed about it. I have come to understand and have a somewhat different perspective today.”

Cook explained that the Vietnamese people had been dominated by other nations for centuries, and had longed to be free.

That opportunity came after the conclusion of the second World War, when Ho Chi Minh turned to the United States for assistance in becoming free, but our country ultimately elected to turn the country back over to France. Thus the stage was set for “The Ten Thousand Day War,” as the Vietnam conflict has come to be known.

“America became engaged in that war, and we lost much of our treasure and the blood of our brave young men and women,” Cook said. “The Vietnamese lost much too. We both suffered, and in the process, we are all healing today.”

Cook said ceremonies such as the one at Thomson-Hood were part of the process to help both the nation and the veterans heal. When the nation called, those who served stood up, saluted the flag and carried out their duty as they understood it. That, he said, was the noble thing.

“We are trying to say to you in the best way we can ‘thank you for standing up, thank you for doing your duty and thank you for being here today,’” he said.

Carla Ray, regent with the Daughters of the American Revolution in Nicholasville, explained that the commemoration for Vietnam Veterans was established in May 2012 to honor any veteran who served either at home or out of the country from Nov. 1, 1955 through May 15, 1975. She explained the certificate from the DAR that each veteran in attendance would be receiving, along with a presidential proclamation signed by President Obama. The most important thing that the vets would receive, she said, was a lapel pin designed for and presented only to Vietnam veterans.

The Vietnam Veterans in attendance who received the honors included Sue Allen, Logan Calhoun, Charles Heathcock, Russell Kincaid, Robert Leach, Larry Mains, Clifford Moore, Richard Peterson, Darrell Shannon, E.W. True and Jack Wallace.

“On behalf of our grateful nation, it is a privilege to thank and honor you for your service, valor and sacrifice when your country needed you the most. To you we say ‘welcome home, Vietnam veteran,’” was told to each veteran upon receiving their pin, along with a salute.

Following the presentations, local veteran and singer-songwriter Gary Pack performed a song entitled “A Far Away Land,” which was followed by a performance of “Taps.”

The ceremony concluded with a message from Nick McManus of the Central Kentucky Veterans Committee and the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Lexington.

McManus said that many things have happened since the 9 million Americans served in Vietnam. He also gave a copy of the Camp Nelson Memorial Day service from this year to Thomson-Hood staff for veterans to view before offering one last salute to the present servicemen from the Vietnam war.

“Thank you, Vietnam veterans,” he said. “Well done. Welcome home. Your country is proud of you.”