HARKER HEIGHTS — Disabled American Veterans Chapter 29 honored 27 Vietnam War-era veterans and three widows of Vietnam War-era veterans during a meeting Saturday.
Veterans received a certificate signed by the secretary of Defense and a commemorative lapel pin and a heartfelt, “Welcome home, thank you for your service.”
Commander of DAV Chapter 29 James Dukes said it was to give thanks and to honor their service, valor and sacrifice when the country called upon them and because that recognition didn’t come when the veterans returned home. He read the citation on the certificates before the veterans receiving them.
“You answered our nation’s call and proudly served in the footsteps of previous generations of American servicemen and -women,” Dukes said. “It is an honor to present you this certificate and commemorative pin in recognition of your patriotism and service.”
Polly Hammarlund was one of the widows recognized who received a commemorative pin during the event.
“I had never seen it done before and they’re just starting to recognize all sorts of different groups amongst Vietnam veterans and I think that’s just great,” Hammarlund said.
William Gabriel served from January 1972 until he retired in June 1992.
He and his wife are both disabled veterans and said this was the first time he has ever received any recognition for being a veteran during that period.
“At the time we went in 1972, we didn’t have a choice to where we were going, and I got orders for Germany,” Gabriel said. “I didn’t go to Vietnam, but we were all in support of the mission there.”
Pat Christ, a former councilman, retired military intelligence officer and Vietnam veteran, and current chairman of the Area Veterans Advisory Committee’s Vietnam Commemorative Committee, said he attends as many commemoration meetings as he can.
“Our goal has been to recognize every Vietnam veteran within the community,” Christ said.
Christ said if a veteran served even a single day on active duty between 1955 to 1975 they are considered a Vietnam-era veteran and they will be honored.