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Post 24 remembers Vietnam with wall
These are some of the items at the Vietnam Wall created inside Rumford American Legion Post 24, which includes two displays of MIA/POW bracelets, with stories about the names of the soldiers on them (being read by at right by Post 24 First Vice Commander Tricia Thurston).
RUMFORD -- When asked about the meaning of an American Legion post, Post 24 First Vice Commander Tricia Thurston would tell you it's a place for veterans and their families to come together for support or just to gather and visit with other veterans.
One of the things they are talking about at Post 24 is a Vietnam Wall they have done at their Congress Street facility. The formation of the wall also marked the 50th Commemoration Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
The idea for the wall began shortly after Post 24 received eleven MIA/POW bracelets, worn back when the Vietnam War was going on. Thurston said they were donated by Debbie DeRoche, who had received them from Nina Hodgkins.
To store the bracelets, Americanism Officer Fred Milligan put felt around two flag holders, with Adjutant Dane Curato making the shelves for the bracelets.
Along with the bracelets was a book containing stories about each of the soldiers. While these soldiers were not from this area, Thurston noted that the message is the same. She said she can remember wearing such a bracelet during this war.
Further, she said she would be interested in people sharing their own stories and photos about the Vietnam War. Those interested can email her at Tricia425@Roadrunner.com.
People then started adding things for the wall, including pictures from a visit to the Vietnam War Memorial and American Legion special issues during the Vietnam War. They already had the laminate set of the five-part Valor in the Valley series done in the Rumford Falls Times in 2007.
The wall has gotten a lot of positive reaction at the Legion, where they have a lot of veterans who fought in Vietnam. Thurston said it evokes a lot of conversation about the war and some have brought in other veterans to look at the wall.
Recently, Thurston said she had a long conversation with her sister in California about this wall.
"It really brought back so many memories about many reasons why it is so important to honor these veterans," she said. "There are few differences in our veterans who have fought in combat. They all fight a difficult war. They all fight for our freedoms which so many take for granted."
However, the difference is the way Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home. "Unfortunately, Vietnam Veterans were treated horribly upon their homecoming. I am thankful I was too young to understand what was happening when they did come home. We can never let what happened then, happen again," said Thurston.
"It is up to all of us to support and welcome home our veterans of today. We are here to live our lives while they are risking theirs. We all benefit from their service and should come together to support them," she said.
Thurston said one of the primary missions of the American Legion is to make sure that our veterans and their families receive the support and recognition they deserve. "Post 24 is here to support and help those coming home. We are here to help them find the many resources they may need to adjust back in to their communities. There are many programs out there we can refer them to. Health care, information on PTSD, and more. We are veterans serving veterans."