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Columbus commemoration focuses on Vietnam veterans

FPS staff report

A commemoration of Vietnam Veterans Day in Ohio will be held March 26-29 in Columbus.

This event is the first state-level commemoration of the day enacted by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Governor John Kasich last year.

Panel discussions, The Wall that Heals exhibit and special ceremonies are planned over the four-day period.  The state commemoration also marks the 40th anniversary of the end of America’s role in the Vietnam War.  The theme of the commemoration is to finally welcome home and honor all those who served there and to remember those who didn’t make it back.  Events will be held at the Ohio History Center at Interstate 71 and 17th Ave. and at the Statehouse.

The Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) and the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Buckeye State Council, together are sponsoring the commemoration.  A volunteer committee of veterans’ organizations and local officials has been working the past few months to make the event a reality.  The Veterans of Foreign Wars Ohio Charities has underwritten a significant portion of the costs of the event. 

“Vietnam veterans are grateful for this recognition,” said Tom Moe, director of the ODVS.  “They have not been properly honored and many of my comrades were even vilified when they returned from the war.  This is a way to honor and thank them that is long overdue.”

The highlight of the commemoration is the hosting of the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall, known as The Wall that Heals from Washington D.C. at the Ohio Historical Center.  The Wall will be escorted by veteran motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard Rider sand Rolling Thunder.  It is expected to arrived around 2 p.m. March 24 after journeying from the Ohio-Indiana border at Interstate 74, then traveling Interstate 25 to 71 to Columbus. 

A formal dinner will be held at the Statehouse along with an opening ceremony at the Ohio History Center and a closing ceremony at the Statehouse.  A final memorial ceremony at The Wall will close out the commemoration.

Panel discussions will be held March 26-28 at the Ohio History Center and will include:  experiences of veterans, suffering and endurance of prisioners of war, roles played by female veterans and a historical perspective on the war and its aftermath.   Following the panels, Vietnam veterans will be able to record their experiences in Living History interviews to be on permanent file at the Ohio History Center.

All events are open to veterans and the public.  Volunteers are needed to serve in many functions.  A schedule of events, volunteer information and commemoration details can be found at:  http://dvs.ohio.gov/home/vietnam_veterans_commeration.aspx.

“It’s important that we establish Vietnam Veteran’s Day so the people of Ohio can unite in one voice and say they are grateful and proud of the veterans of that conflict,” said Moe.  “It is a voice that is finally saying to them, ‘Welcome home’.”

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