As part of the nation’s 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, members of The Villages’ Marine Corps League, Col. Phillip C. Delong Detachment officially placed Vietnam Veteran Lapel pins on 67 veterans at ceremonies Tuesday at the Stonecrest Community Center, in Summerfield.
In addition, three widows of deceased Vietnam veterans also received a pin. Everyone also was presented with a certificate of commemoration signed by President Trump.
The ceremony was one of more than 12,500 events held around the country to recognize ‘all men and women who served on active duty between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, whether they served ‘in-country, ‘in-theater,’ or were stationed elsewhere during those 20 years.
“This has been a long time in coming that we can humbly honor our servicemen who were so poorly treated,” said Lou Calleja, the Detachment’s event coordinator. “More than 2.7 million are considered Vietnam veterans. Now only 850,000 are alive. We’re losing 390 vets every day. That’s why we’re ‘beating the bushes’ to find them, to recognize their service and to say welcome home.”
The event drew veterans and their guests from Stonecrest, The Villages and from cities throughout the region.
A big contingent was members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division Association North Central Florida Chapter.
“It has been 50 years since Vietnam. I appreciate that the American people are finally recognizing our contributions,” said Ocala resident Frank Rasbury, a 21-year veteran with service in Korea and Vietnam. He now is an Association charter member. “Now the anger is gone.”
The Delong Detachment is an ‘official’ partner of the Department of Defense and authorized to officiate at these ceremonies and distribute the specially-made pins. The Villages-based Marines had officiated at a similar event at Stonecrest last January, and will do so again at the Del Webb Stone Creek community on May 10.
The Presidential proclamation reads in part, “We vow to never again confuse personal disapproval of war with prejudice against those who honorably wear the uniform of our Armed Forces. With conviction, our Nation pledges our enduring respect, our continuing care, and our everlasting commitment to all Vietnam veterans.”