Vietnam veterans get their due in Waterloo
Thunder held up long enough Tuesday morning for Waterloo’s first Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremony honoring locals who fought for our country.
As Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith explained, March 29, 1973, was when the last U.S. combat troops departed Vietnam and Hanoi released its last acknowledged prisoners of war.
“You can see March 29 is a very fitting choice for the National Vietnam War Veterans Day,” Smith said.
Each aspect of Tuesday’s ceremony on the Monroe County Courthouse grounds was tailored to fit the unique struggles many Vietnam veterans faced when they returned home.
“After serving for a year or more you returned home to a divided and confused country, many being against our involvement in the Southeast Asia conflict,” American Legion Post 747 Commander and Waterloo Alderman Clyde Heller said during the ceremony. “Unlike servicemen and women from World War II and the Korean War, when you returned in uniform, there was no parade. Many of you were subjected to harassment for your service. That was a shame on our country because you had been fighting for all of us only to receive blame, dishonor and shame.”
“While no words will never be fully worthy of their service nor any honor truly befitting their sacrifice, let us remember it is never too late to pay tribute to the men and women who answered the call of duty with courage and valor,” Smith said.
The ceremony publicly recognized local Vietnam War era veterans in attendance and those who had died either during the war or after they returned home. Each Vietnam veteran who gathered outside of the courthouse for the event was given a pin, certificate of honor and “thank you” from Smith, Monroe County Board Chairman Dennis Knobloch, and former state senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Schimpf, who is a Waterloo native and retired military officer whose father served during the Vietnam War era.
One of those honored was veteran Marvin McMichael, who also did the honor of posting a 50th anniversary Vietnam War commemoration flag.
“I’m very happy to see this crowd,” McMichael told the Republic-Times. “These guys deserved better and they’re just now getting recognition.”
For some, being honored Tuesday was bittersweet, as they held memories of family members lost in the war.
This was the case for Vietnam veteran Allan Guttmann, whose brother John Peter Guttmann Jr. was one of the three Monroe County men who died in the war.
Guttmann said his brother “would be pleased” with Tuesday’s ceremony.
The other two local men were Richard Daugherty and Robert F. Holden.
Those who could not attend Tuesday’s ceremony but are interested in seeing if they qualify for a commemorative pin and certificate of honor can contact Waterloo Community Relations Coordinator Sarah Deutch at email@example.com.
The ceremony also included performances from the Gibault Catholic High School a capella singing group and second graders at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School.
“I’m very proud that we have the kids here today to see Vietnam veterans because they have to continue your legacy. We won’t be around,” Smith said.