An Effort to Make Up for 40 Years of Being Forgotten

June 23, 2017

 

by Len Lathrop

The Steckevicz gym looked different.  First was the uniforms and military garb and next was the average age of those filling the seats.

Everyone was there to honor and say thank you to the Vietnam veterans whose homecoming is depicted as being a disgrace for our nation.  As the troops were withdrawn in 1974, many soldiers came home to a country that disagreed with the conflict and regrettably turned their anger on the troops.

Saturday, June 17, was a day to honor, to thank and to bless those who returned and to remember those who did not.  It was the fifth such event in New Hampshire, marking 50 years since the war began.

Master of Ceremonies Peter St. James introduced the event, and, before the speeches, the video by “Red Skelton” about the Pledge of Allegiance had everyone thinking.  Then this petite young woman in an Air Force uniform startled the audience with her a capella version of the national anthem, while Cadet Lt. Colonel Catie Donahue can sing and she is the cadet commander of the JROTC Corp at Alvirne.

After the invocation by NH National Guard Chaplin Maj. Steven Veinotte, the video “A tribute to Vietnam Veterans” caused tears in many eyes of those in attendance.  The speakers included Governor Chris Sununu, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan with representatives of Carl Shea Porter and Annie Kuster read letters from them.  While the words were different, the messages were the same… what happened upon your return was not right and we are sorry it happened and thank you for your service and God bless.

The guest speaker was 83-year-old Commander Max Quayle of VFW Post 8641 Merrimack; he is a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, who served in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Europe and Asia.  Wearing the Army “Olive Green” uniform the first sergeant came home from Vietnam, and his story brought many laughs and nods from the veterans in the gathering.  He told about Jane Fonda bringing t-bone steaks noting they were used to water buffalo.  Or when his son was born stateside and how they could not find him without computer and tracking.  Quayle recalled how the CO would ask if anyone had a pregnant wife at home, and about 90 percent would put up their hands.  It took three days before Max knew he had a son.

The sergeant was followed by a video called “Not Forgotten (A Moment of Truth) and then “Taps” by CW2 Sean Pinsonneault of the 39th Army Band, the video “Welcome Home a Soldier Son.”  Everyone was touched by the celebration and the respect shown for these warriors.