Vietnam War veterans honored - Camp Lejeune Globe: Carolina Living

Vietnam War veterans honored

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Posted: Friday, March 29, 2019 2:10 pm

The Vietnam War era was a time of monumental political, social and cultural change in the United States. Distrust in the federal government reached previously unseen levels while, for the first time, citizens avidly decried a country at war.

It is a time reflected upon through a broad lens but, for the service members who were sent to fight in the Vietnam War, its affects rippled down to each individual person. Fifty years later, those ripples have irreversibly bound every one of those soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who served.

That bond of brotherhood was on full display at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s Commissary Friday when the store hosted a Vietnam Veterans Recognition Ceremony. Vietnam veterans from every branch of service who came through the commissary doors were welcomed with a variety of commemorative pins as well as treated to cake on behalf of the store. The metaphorical icing on that literal cake, however, was the fellowship granted by the commissary’s staff as well as members of the Jacksonville Vet Center.

“We’re trying to support the community and give back to our veterans,” said Robert Robin, store director for the MCB Camp Lejeune Commissary.

Commemorative lapel pins from The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration (USAVWC) were available for veterans. The back of the pins read “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”  Documentation of presidential commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War from President Donald Trump and Former President Barrack Obama was also on hand.

The event was part of the USAVWC’s initiative to “Join the Nation” in commemorating and honoring Vietnam War era veterans and their families.

“We’re partnered with the USAVWC out of Washington D.C.,” said Paul Siverson, Outreach Specialist for the Jacksonville Vet Center. “This is our part to say thank you. As a Vietnam Veteran myself, it means a little bit more to me.”

Siverson served in Vietnam in 1971. He also served in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. He is a retired Marine Corps sergeant major.

Joe Burkett, a retired Army sergeant 1st class, served in Vietnam and now works at the commissary as a bagger. It’s his way of getting out of the house.

“I went over in 1968,” said Burkett. “Now it’s 2018. I can’t believe it’s been 50 years.”

As with any event with members of different branches of the military, a little good-natured ribbing was present as well. The jokes were moot to Burkett, however.

“I don’t care what (branch of service) you served,” Burkett said. “I just care that you served.”

Paul Davenport, a retired Marine colonel, attended with his wife. Davenport flew 270 combat missions in the F-4 Phantom during his time in Vietnam. After his retirement in 1991, Davenport spent nine additional years contracting in combat zones. He was thankful for how views have changed toward Vietnam War veterans.

“I sure appreciate that they’re doing this for us,” said Davenport. “Nobody talks about the Vietnam War. We had bags of urine and feces thrown on us when we came back. I saw a film. … They painted Ho Chi Minh as a hero. … I have a Vietnamese neighbor, and every time I see him he hugs me. He got out of there, and now he and his family can live the American dream.”

In 1973 Davenport also played a part in establishing a Marine presence in Norway.

“I stood on every beach and surveyed,” Davenport said. “I told them (leadership) where they could deploy a Marine Air Ground Task Force.”

Robin expects the Commissary to continue hosting community events in the future.

“We’re going to do more events at the store,” said Robin. “We plan to have a contest for the Month of the Military Child and will have sidewalk sales on location from May 1 through May 4.”

For the Vietnam Veterans, however, Robin was just grateful to show the Commissary’s support.

“We want to show our appreciation for them and all the things they’ve done for us,” Robin said.

Marine Corps Air Station New River held a similar event.

For more information about the USAVWC, visit www.vietnamwar50th.com or call 877-387-9951.

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