Vietnam lapel pin

Vietnam veteran Dan Smith shows off the Vietnam lapel pin he received during a pinning ceremony Thursday at MCAS Cherry Point for his service during the Vietnam War. The pin contains patriotic symbolism, including an eagle surrounded by a blue band and laurel wreath, with the message “A grateful nation thanks and honors you” displayed on the back of the pin. Thursday, March 29, is National Vietnam War Veterans Day.  (Elise Clouser photo)

CHERRY POINT — Nearly 45 years to the day after the conflict ended, Vietnam War veterans were honored locally Thursday with a pinning ceremony recognizing their sacrifices and contributions to the war effort.

Fifteen veterans were presented a commemorative Vietnam lapel pin during the regular monthly meeting of the Marine Corps League Detachment 1067 at Miller’s Landing aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

The group of veterans served all around the world during the war, including many in Vietnam. Recipients were: Lt. Col. Ron Ambrose, Jerry Brown, Dan Macsay, Ron DeGeare, Don Getman, Mike McCulley, Dan Smith, Richard Shirley, Bob Warren, Bobby Holt, Sonia Macsay, Mary Warren, Gen. Tom Braaton, Hank Gottard and Bill Hodges.

MCAS Cherry Point Commanding Officer Col. Todd Ferry conducted the pinning ceremony and reflected on the lasting impact of the Vietnam War, thanking the veterans who served.

Col. Ferry also shared that he feels a special connection to Vietnam War veterans, despite being born in the middle of the war in 1969, because he flew the very same CH-46 helicopter that was used during war campaigns in Vietnam.

“When I joined the Marine Corps as a helicopter pilot, I joined a legacy of Vietnam. I chose to become a CH-46 pilot because of the community…born out of Vietnam,” he said. “…It is an honor for me, more than most probably, because of my community and what I’ve done and the interactions I’ve had with Vietnam’s special people that impacted my life.”

Master Gunnery Sgt. Alvin LaPointe, retired, was also recognized separately during the meeting for his service during the Vietnam War and beyond. He received the Navy Cross for his service, the second-highest honor bestowed on combat veterans.

The pinning ceremony came ahead of the upcoming National Vietnam War Veterans Day Thursday, March 29. The commemorative holiday was established last year by the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, which President Donald Trump signed into law March 28, 2017.

March 29 was chosen for the national holiday because it is the same date the U.S. withdrew combat and combat support units from South Vietnam in 1973. The war, which began in 1965, lasted about two more years before officially ending in May 1975.

More than 8 million troops served around the world during the Vietnam War. Over 58,000 people died and 304,000 more were wounded.

The Vietnam War Commemoration Commission, a national organization, partnered with all branches of the armed forces this year to honor veterans for National Vietnam Veterans Day. They provided the special commemorative materials, including lapel pins, presidential proclamation letters and bumper stickers.

The Cherry Point Marine Corps Exchange will also distribute pins and other materials to Vietnam veterans at the customer service desk Monday-Thursday, March 25-29, while supplies last. Any living veteran who served on active duty during the Vietnam War, regardless of location, is eligible to receive a Vietnam lapel pin.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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