In 2016, few people anywhere look back on the Vietnam War and see it as anything but a mistake.
But the troops who fought and were wounded there, died there – in an era of the draft, when so many went because their country told them to go – or protested at home against the war are America.
Politicians started the war, but it was the Vietnam vets who took the bullets abroad and the spit and the venom upon returning home when there were no ceremonies honoring them.
Tuesday in Rock Hill, that changes.
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At a ceremony at Rock Hill’s National Guard armory, all Vietnam War veterans from York, Chester, and Lancaster counties are invited to stand tall and stand proud and have a pin placed over their heart thanking them for their service. The event at 1 p.m. is to be held in conjunction with a career and job fair and Veterans Affairs forum and claims workshop. All the eventsare aimed at honoring all veterans – and especially Vietnam vets.
Many of the current National Guard members, combat veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, are helping to put on the event that honors the past and helps with the present and future for vets.
“We are proud to host and honor our Vietnam veterans,” said Maj. Tom Meares, executive officer of the National Guard 178th Combat Engineers, headquartered in Rock Hill with armories in Chester, Fort Mill, Lancaster. “All our veterans deserve the benefits they are entitled to. They all earned it.”
S.C. Adjutant General Robert Livingston, the state’s highest ranking guard member, will be on hand Tuesday to thank the generation of Vietnam veterans who served honorably.
In the armory, banners and signs have gone up. There are countless American flags and red white and blue bunting and signs that say simply words that were not said from the start of the Vietnam War through its end in 1975: “Welcome Home.”
“We will make sure that every Vietnam veteran who can get here receives a pin, and more, the thanks they deserve,” said Melinda Woodhurst, a veterans adviser for the National Guard.
The career and resource fair will have people on hand to help veterans with job and skills assistance, and the forum will give veterans a chance to talk to VA officials about how to address concerns.
Yet in York County, helping veterans is an everyday job and more, a mission, for the county’s Veterans Affairs office. The office, led by Veterans Service Officer Joe Medlin, an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran, helps thousands of veterans every year with benefits and other services. The office has helped wounded vets get service dogs, assisted vets in crises and with homelessness and other chronic problems, and even started a court for veterans so that service-related problems don’t lead to a life wrecked or ruined.
“We believe that it is our duty to make sure that every veteran is taken care of,” Medlin said.
Tuesday’s event is free. It is part workshop and part ceremony and all military.
The goal is simple: Help veterans, honor them, and show them their country hasn’t forgotten them.
Want to go?
What: Vietnam veteran recognition, veterans career fair, and VA forum and claims workshop
Where: Rock Hill National Guard Armory, 126 Museum Road
Times: Career fair 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Vietnam veterans pinning ceremony 1 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.; VA forum and workshop 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Information on Tuesday’s event: 803-487-5757; 803-647-2905
Information for York County Veterans Affairs: 803-909-7525, Office is located at 529. S. Cherry Road, Rock Hill, in the York County administrative building.