Four members of the Vevay American Legion post #185 were honored on Monday, March 29th, for 50 years of continuous membership in the American Legion.
The ceremony was a fitting one, since all four veterans served in the Vietnam Era, and Monday was officially National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Post Commander Duane Covington and longtime post member Darrell Hansel were on hand to make the presentations to Randy Brown, Wayne Ellegood, Larry Park, and Kenny Turner.
“You guys have hit a milestone that is quite hard to hit at times,” Covington said during the ceremony. “You’ve set the pace for it, and I want to congratulate you on your longtime membership within the organization.”
Covington then turned the program over to Hansel, who made the presentations.
“You now, I don’t know what your all experiences might have been, coming back from Vietnam, but on Vietnam Veterans Day, it’s a relatively new celebration that we’re having to honor Vietnam veterans,” Hansel said. “It’s sort of touching, I think. I appreciate all that you have done, especially in the realm of being members of the American Legion for 50 years.”
Larry Park entered the Navy in 1969, serving for a year and a half. Park served his time in Corpus Christi, Texas, not given the opportunity to serve abroad because he was the only son in the family.
“I played basketball and fast pitch softball for the Navy, and traveled doing that,” he said.
“I was born and raised in Vevay, and when I came home, I joined the legion here,” Park said. “I transferred my membership to Madison for awhile because that’s where I worked at; and then I transferred it back up here. This is where I started. I wanted to come back home.”
“When we all got home, Lowell Wayne (Sullivan) had already joined, and he got us all in here,” Park said.
Kenny Turner entered the military in the infantry in 1968. He served two years in the military — including one year in Vietnam.
Returning after that tour, Turner served at Fort Carson, Colorado for six months.
“I’ve spent all 50 years of my legion membership right here,” Turner said. “I’ve always been here at home.”
Wayne Ellegood entered the service in 1969, serving two years in the Army.
“I went to Germany for 18 months,” Ellegood said. “I was stationed in Berlin, Germany for 16 months. That was kind of unique. Back when the Iron Curtain was still up. It was kind of a different philosophy then.”
Ellegood was discharged from the Army in December of 1970, and has always held his legion membership at the Vevay post.
Randy Brown entered the military in the Marines in 1970. He was discharged in 1972.
“I served out in California during the Vietnam Era,” he said. “I had a brother who was over there and got wounded. I wasn’t asked to go to Vietnam — but that’s part of it. We were in at the time. If they would have asked (to go to Vietnam) I’d have been there.”
All 50 years of his legion membership has been in Vevay.
“We started up over the post office in a room, and we finally got this place here (on Ferry Street). It’s come a long ways in 50 years,” Brown said.
According to the Vietnam Veterans of America website (www.vva.org), the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 was signed into law by President Donald Trump, designating every March 29th as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. This special day joins six other military-centric annual observances: Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, Navy Day, Veterans Day.
March 29th is a fitting choice for a day honoring Vietnam veterans. It was chosen to be observed in perpetuity as March 29th, 1973 was the day United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disestablished and also the day the last U.S. combat troops departed Vietnam. In addition, on and around this same day Hanoi released the last of its acknowledged prisoners of war.
The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration honors all veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time from November 1st, 1955 to May 15th, 1975, regardless of location.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that today there are more than 6 million U.S. Vietnam veterans living in America and abroad, along with 9 million families of those who served during this time frame. No distinction between veterans who served in-country, in-theater, or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period is made. All were called to serve and none could self-determine where they would serve.
U.S. involvement in Vietnam started slowly with an initial deployment of advisors in the early 1950s, grew incrementally through the early 1960s and expanded with the deployment of full combat units in July 1965. The last U.S. personnel were evacuated from Vietnam in April of 1975.
This national commemoration was authorized by Congress, established under the Secretary of Defense, and launched by the President to thank and honor our Nation’s Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.
In 2007, the 110th Congress incorporated language in House of Representatives (H.R.) 4986 authorizing the secretary of defense to conduct a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. H.R. 4986 was signed into law as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2008 by President George W. Bush on January 28th, 2008.
President Barack Obama officially inaugurated this Commemoration at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day, May 28th, 2012.