More in News
Vietnam War veterans recognized in Rumford
At top left, Vietnam veteran Rapheno Thibeault of Mexico (left), displays the Certificate of Appreciation that he received from Maine Adjutant Gen. Jim Campbell on Saturday at the second annual Vietnam War Remembrance Day at American Legion Post 24 in Rumford. At bottom, Vietnam veteran and Maine Humorist Gary Crocker shared memories of his service time, sang the national anthem, and shared a little humor as well. (Times photos by Bruce Farrin)
RUMFORD — On Saturday, 33 Maine Vietnam veterans with the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard were recognized for their sacrifice, courage and willingness to serve their country during the second annual Vietnam War Rememberance Day Celebration at American Legion Post 24.
Peter Ogden, director of the Maine Veterans' Services in Augusta, and Brig. Gen. Jim Campbell, of Lewiston, honored the veterans, awarding them with Maine Certificates of Appreciation. The day coincided with the 40th anniversary of the withdrawal of the nation's last combat troops from Vietnam.
In explaining the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War seal to his left, Ogden told about 70 people that this recognition ceremony was the first of many that will be carried out around Maine and in Canada for the next 10 years to honor Vietnam veterans.
"We're celebrating the 40th anniversary of the return of the troops and the 50th anniversary of the war. This year, we're recongizing 1963 as 50 years ago in Vietnam. The last of those combat troops left in 1973 and the official date of the war ended in 1975," he said.
"For many of us, we have many different thoughts about Vietnam and coming home. I saw an opportunity for this state to recognize our veterans and to say thank you for your service. We will be celebrating the 50th anniversary commemoration for the next 10 years or better. The last 50th commemoration will be in 2025, which will be the 50th anniversary of 1975. We'll be having welcome home ceremonies around the state," said Ogden.
The Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services or as it is better known “Maine Veterans’ Services” conducts periodic presentation ceremonies around the state to provide an opportunity for the family and friends of veterans to attend a local recognition ceremony to see their loved one recognized for their military service.
The State of Maine has established a recognition program to honor the service and sacrifices of all Maine veterans. The recognition program includes honoring those who were wounded, POWs, or died in support of combat operations since the beginning of WWII.
The state presented special 40th Anniversary Certificates to Vietnam veterans.
Rep. Sheryl Briggs, D-Mexico, who sponsored the bill last year that created the remembrance day, shared the sentiment of Vietnam veteran Al Pelletier of Norway, who couldn't attend.
Pelletier served 2.5 years in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy's Commander 7th Fleet Operations, Briggs said, reading Pelletier's prepared statement.
"I came home to a totally different country," Pelletier wrote. "My work had been top secret, so I couldn't speak of it, and after living the horror of being spit on and called a pot-smoking baby-killer, I felt like I just didn't belong in the country I love."
Pelletier said he didn't mention his service for many years, trying to put it behind him. Forty years later, Pelletier, who wrote a song about the experience, said he was invited to sing it at the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
Briggs also has a personal connection to the war. Her oldest brother, Augustine Capponi, Jr., served with the Marines and was recognized at Saturday's ceremony.
She said her father served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and in the Seabees. His three brothers also served in the armed services.
"The Vietnam War was very traumatic for me as a young teenager," said Briggs. "We all know what the veterans endured on their return home. As a teenager, I could never understand it. I will never forget what I had seen on television."
When her brother, Gus, returned home, he wasn't wearing his uniform. She said she asked him why and he said he was told not to wear it for his own safety.
"My brother never really recovered from this war," said Briggs. He continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other afflictions, she said. "Our family almost lost him three times over the past few years."
She said thousands of Vietnam veterans still suffer like her brother, and many are homeless. Her goal, she said, is for the day of remembrance to bring many veterans together to help them heal physically, spiritually and emotionally.
"This is not just for me," said Briggs. "But for all Mainers who wish to say to you, 'We're sorry, thank you and welcome home.'"
Vietnam veteran and Maine Humorist Gary Crocker shared memories of his service time, sang the national anthem, and shared a little humor as well.
Following the ceremony, veterans were invited to visit a Vietnam War Wall that Post 24 recently established.