A day of remembrance for Vietnam veterans is an occasion for remembrance and reflection.
Friday, National Vietnam War Veterans Day is a national holiday to honor and recognize veterans who served during the Vietnam War, but ceremonies to commemorate that special day will be conducted Saturday in Reno and Carson City. In honor of National Vietnam War Veterans Day, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, along with presidents from two Vietnam Veterans of America chapters, also designated Friday as a day to honor more than 2.7 million U.S. military personnel who served during the war.
According to event coordinator Brigitte Stafford, VVA Chapter 989 and the Nevada Department of Veterans Services (NDVS) are sponsoring a Vietnam War Veterans Remembrance Event and All Veterans Luncheon in addition to recognizing the men and women who served and are serving in the military.
Linda Dickinson, president of Sierra Nevada Chapter 989 of the VVA, said the purpose of Saturday’s Vietnam War Veterans Remembrance Event, the first for Reno, is to welcome home veterans who served thousands of miles away from home and to provide recognition to those who were killed or came home to face anger, disrespect and dishonor for answering their country’s call to serve. The Vietnam War lasted almost two decades, ending with the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. Approximately 58,220 American soldiers were killed, more than 150,000 were wounded and at least 21,000 were permanently disabled
During this year’s remembrance day at the Reno Events Center, Stafford said attendees will be able to attend a free open house beginning at 10 a.m. with static displays of military equipment, a UH-1 Huey helicopter and a Vietnam War Museum; to visit veteran service organizations providing assistance with filing, processing veteran claims for benefits and opportunities for wellness, employment, educational outreach and burial support; and to talk with the various national and local veterans organizations to learn of their programs.
“We want families to come to our event,” Stafford said. “We’ve never had an event like this in Reno.”
A special military ceremony honoring Nevada’s fallen and the 58,318 Americans who died during the Vietnam War is scheduled at 11 a.m. Stafford said the keynote speaker is Retired Brig. Gen. General Robert Hayes, who served in Vietnam as an Army helicopter pilot and later as commander of the Army Guard for Nevada.
Hayes was designated an Army aviator in November 1967 with immediate assignment to U.S. Army Vietnam and the 20th Engineer Brigade. He completed his tour in November 1968 and was subsequently assigned to the Panama Canal Zone where he served with the 193rd Infantry Brigade and Headquarters, U.S. Army South until leaving active duty in September 1970.
Hayes began his second military career in March 1973 when he joined the Nevada Army National Guard as a rotary wing aviator and retired from the Nevada Guard in 2003. During his time of service with the Nevada National Guard he graduated from the Officer Advanced Course, Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.
Stafford said Congressman Mark Amodei, an Army veteran who served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1983-1987, will speak at the luncheon, and NDVS director Kat Miller will also speak. Amodei has been a three-time member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, while Miller is a retired Army colonel. Additionally, Stafford said veterans from all eras and special guests will be recognized.
Carson City Chapter 388 VVA President Tom Spencer said the event in the capital city, which begins Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m., will have a solemn ceremony to remember the 151 Nevada military personnel who died as a result of the war. Mayor Bob Crowell, who served in the U.S. Navy and retired from military service as a captain, will deliver the keynote address. In prepared remarks from one year ago at the Mills Park ceremony, Crowell, himself a Vietnam War veteran, noted the importance of the special day.
“It is a reminder that as time passes and our ranks decline it is important that we continue to pay tribute to those who did not make it home as well as those who did make it home only to carry the scars of battle either physically or emotionally,” he said. “Just as important are the families and friends of our veterans who provided much needed support at home. It is important that we remind our community and our nation of the sacrifices of veterans and their families and friends in keeping the torch of freedom burning brightly in the greatest nation on earth.”
Guests will pay respects to all the fallen Nevada Vietnam veterans to include seven Carson City residents: Sgt. Daniel L. Ackerman, Petty Officer 3 Michael A. Bodamer, Cpl. David. L. Collins, Spec. 4 Danny L. Smothers, Lance Cpl. Keith D. Taylor, Cmdr. Frederick H. Whittemore and Cpl. James R. Willis. Fallon residents include Spec. 4 Mahlon R. Arnett, Pfc. Michael D. Blea, Sgt. 1st Class Billy D. Hill, Spec. 4 Willard V. Johnson, Spec. 4 Fredrick E. Larsen, Capt. Eddie Molino, Jr., Spec. 4 Ronald R. Rodrigues and Spec. 5 William R. Rogne. Other area veterans include Cpl. Dale Eugene Hutchins, Douglas County, and Sgt. Danny Gerald Studdard, Virginia City.
Representatives from both the Carson City and Reno VVA chapters will read the veterans’ names with a bell tolling for each individual.