VA Western New York Healthcare System
50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War
On Tuesday, March 29, 2016 VA Western New York Healthcare System hosted two commemoration events to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The commemoration’s main purpose was to thank, honor, and provide a proper welcome home to Vietnam era Veterans, a welcome home that many never had as they returned to the U.S. from Vietnam. “It was a tough period of time for our country. Many Vets, upon returning from Vietnam, felt compelled to take off their uniform at airports and quickly change into their civilian clothes to avoid protestor shouts, ridicule, and being spat upon,” lamented Gordon Bellinger, a former Army Engineer and Lockport native, who served in Vietnam from 1967-68. Added Gordon, “We are glad those days are over, and that regardless of politics, our young men and women get a proper welcome home.”
In the Buffalo, New York, area, retired Army two-star general John Batiste provided morning guest speaker remarks to over 120 Veterans at American Legion Post 622, along with Buffalo native and Lt. Governor from New York, Kathy Hochul. General Batiste commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq (The Big Red One) from 2004-05. His pointed remarks captured the sacrifice and hardships of Vietnam era Veteran service, men who served an average of 244 days in combat situations, as opposed to WWII Veterans, who saw 47 days of action. In Batavia, former Navy Corpsman and Vietnam Veteran Vincent Schollard spoke to his fellow brothers and sisters in arms in the auditorium at Batavia VAMC. His main theme was “perseverance.” Said Schollard, “Despite all of the obstacles in front of us as Vietnam Veterans, Agent Orange, poor health, an ungrateful country, we persevered.”
A commemorative 50th anniversary Vietnam service pin and proclamation from the President of the United States was presented to each Vietnam era Veteran in attendance by Directors from VA Western New York Healthcare System, Veterans Benefits Administration, and National Cemetery Administration along with NY State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul.