The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Veterans Day assembly focuses on Vietnam vets


November 14, 2019

Darrell Alexander

Veterans had front row seating at local high school assemblies last Friday. At Naselle High School, above, Ed Wirkkala (pink shirt) at 97 is the oldest veteran in the Westend.

As I walked down the hallway at Naselle High School to their gymnasium last Friday, I was focused only on where to get the best pictures without disturbing their ceremony. As I was approaching the entrance to the gym, it suddenly hit me that it had been 50 years since I was drafted into the United States Army. As I took many pictures of the veterans and heard their stories, I was almost overcome with a multitude of diverse emotions. Like many veterans from the Vietnam War era, I never received the welcome many got in World War I and II and recent conflicts. I remember being in my dress green army uniform when I was discharged and the glares I received from total strangers when I walked through San Francisco International Airport on my way home.

This assembly was to honor those who served in the United States military during the Vietnam War. I think part of my anger was why we were treated differently 50 years ago and now we are being honored. It then became a sigh of relief because like my fellow vets, we still live with the memories both good and bad. This event can in no way replace what we veterans experienced, but it was like a soothing balm on the emotional past we went through. I believe I can speak for the veterans in attendance and thank the community and those who organized this event.

The commemoration pin that we received has much symbolism attached. The eagle represents courage, honor, and dedicated service to our country. The blue color represents the canton of the American flag and signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The circle shape and blue color match the official seal of the commemoration. The laurel wreath represents victory, integrity, and strength. The stripes behind the eagle represent the American flag. The six stars represent the six allied nations who fought alongside one another, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the United States. On the back of the pin it says, "A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You."

This was a national commemoration authorized by Congress, established by the Department of Defense, and initiated by the President in 2012. Each living veteran regardless of location during their service and who served from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, are eligible to receive one lapel pin. In March of 2017 the President signed the "Vietnam War Veteran Recognition Act" declaring that March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day as a day set aside in perpetuity for the nation to thank and honor our Vietnam Veterans.

Darrell Alexander

Jaime Herrera Beutler, Jim Walsh, and Gene Strong appeared at the NHS assembly.

It is of worthy note that in attendance was Wahkiakum County Commissioner Gene Strong, 19th Legislative District State Representative Jim Walsh, and Southwest Washington's 3rd Congressional District representative Jaime Herrera Beutler. They were a humble addition to a somber but uplifting event.

The children from the middle school and high school competed in an essay contest with the theme of "What Makes America Great." Of the 22 entries there was one read by high school student Theron Frame that some have requested that it be published in the paper because it was so profound from such a young man. The faces of the veterans after the event told the whole story. I, too, felt that sigh of relief knowing that we veterans are appreciated and not forgotten.


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