IVH observes Vietnam Veterans Day
Handshakes, hugs and tears were plentiful during National Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremonies held at the Iowa Veterans Home Wednesday.
The tears were from family members who lost loved ones in the war and from veterans who lost comrades in the conflict which claimed more than 58,000 American lives during its duration from 1955 to 1975.
It left thousands disabled physically and mentally.
“I am going to venture and say this is the largest crowd of Vietnam War veterans gathered right here and right now,” said Todd Jacobus, event emcee and IVH commandant, while looking out at the dozens of attendees. “We have 196 Vietnam War veterans at IVH — that is one-half the total number of residents. And I want to thank the many Vietnam veterans present for your service … I am in awe to be with you. It was this day, March 29, 1973, that the last combat troops left Vietnam. That was 50 years, or half-a-century ago. Over that time, Vietnam veterans returned home raised families and left a legacy of professionalism and devotion to duty.”
Jacobus, an Army veteran who served overseas, said American forces remained in Vietnam until April 29, 1975. On that date, U.S. Marines Darwin Judge, 19, of Marshalltown, and Charles McMahon Jr., 21, of Woburn, Mass, were killed by a rocket launched by enemy forces while guarding the evacuation of American diplomats, citizens and Vietnam refugees. Judge is buried in Marshalltown’s Rose Hill Cemetery, while McMahon is buried in Woburn, Mass.
Jacobus also acknowledged the hidden scars of war.
“We know there are scars, hidden scars that can’t be seen,” Jacobus said. “Many of you carry those scars with you today.”
Jacobus then asked attendees to share memories or comments.
Attendee Jim Ross said he would never forget May 29, 1966.
“That day 20 Marines died in combat,” he said. “I was there … several were friends … my best friends.”
Others spoke of combat experiences where many were killed and few survived. Attendee Steve Every, an Army veteran, was emotional in describing a helicopter crash where several of his comrades did not.
Other Vietnam veterans spoke of their military service in-country and experiences post-war. Heidi Rhodes, Veterans Administration Regional Veterans Service Manager, was ecstatic about the program and turnout.
Rhodes said she and colleagues would be setting up meetings with Vietnam war veterans at IVH in the near future — with assistance from Jacobus — to ensure they were getting all of the VA approved benefits they have earned.
The event was sponsored by the Des Moines VA Regional Office in Des Moines with significant assistance from IVH staff. Not far from Malloy Hall is the IVH Vietnam War Memorial, which lists the 30 Grundy, Hardin, Tama and Marshall county residents who perished. The memorial also pays tribute to the spouses and children who carried on their loved one’s legacy.