Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!

Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!Members of V.F.W. Post 1371, and all Vietnam Veterans, salute during a March 29 ceremony held at the Veterans Memorial. (JoAnn R. Walter Photo)

By JoAnn R. Walter —

The Tioga County Veterans Service Agency held its annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day event on March 29, and in recognition of National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

March 29 is fitting since the last of the U.S. combat troops in the Republic of Vietnam departed for home on March 29, 1973. Additionally, Hanoi released the last of its acknowledged POW’s on or about the same day.  

The Owego ceremony started at 10 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Courthouse Square.  

Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!

Pictured is a “Welcome Home” wreath gracing the Veterans Memorials in Owego, N.Y. The wreath was placed in front of the Vietnam Memorial on March 29, and in honor and remembrance of those who served during the Vietnam War. (JoAnn R. Walter Photo)

Twenty-one Tioga County service member names are etched on the memorial. Over nine million served in Vietnam, and more than 58,000 lost their lives. Also remembered are the approximate 1,500 who are still missing in action.

Mike Middaugh, director of Tioga County Veterans Services, remarked, “We want to make sure that every one of them is honored, including their families.”

Sergeant Bob Owen of Waverly assisted Middaugh in laying the Welcome Home wreath next to the memorial. V.F.W. 1371 member and veteran Steve Palinosky performed a bugle rendition of “Taps.”

Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!

From left, Sergeant Bob Owen from Waverly, alongside Mike Middaugh, director of the Tioga County Veterans’ Service Agency, salute at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on March 29, and in honor and remembrance of the 21 Vietnam service members from the county who lost their lives during the war. Owen and Middaugh placed a “Welcome Home” wreath in front of the memorial, and during a ceremony held there. (JoAnn R. Walter Photo)

Owen, a Purple Heart Recipient, shared that he would like to see more done for veterans on the federal government level. 

Owen commented that he was previously involved with bringing the Vietnam Moving Wall, a traveling exhibit named “The Wall That Heals,” to the Waverly area. He also recommends Vietnam Veterans and their families, and any interested community members, visit the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial Museum, located at 1200 Davis St. in Elmira, N.Y.

Vietnam Veteran Butch Creller, when asked what is most important to him about the special recognition day, noted, “I would like more service members who are missing in action to be found.”

Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!

From left, Sergeant Bob Owen of Waverly chats with Tioga County Veterans’ Service Director Mike Middaugh at the March 29 Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremony in Owego.  Middaugh requested Owen assist him in placing a “Welcome Home” wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. (JoAnn R. Walter Photo)

According to the Vietnam Veterans of America, the majority of MIA’s are believed to be in Vietnam, and others in Laos, Cambodia and the PRC territorial waters. VVA collaboration with Vietnamese veteran organizations continues in their initiative to find them.

Several individuals from the community also attended the wreath laying, to include Visions FCU Community Development Manager Hanna Mitchell.

Mitchell is the spouse of a 35-year Air Force veteran, and after serving all throughout the U.S. and world has moved back to the southern tier. 

Mitchell commented, “At Visions we are working with the Tioga County Veterans’ Service Agency to help and share resources,” and added, “We are truly appreciative of the veterans.”

Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!

Vietnam Veterans stand or show hands while seated at an annual luncheon held on March 29, Vietnam Veterans Day. The Director of the Tioga County Veterans’ Service Agency, Mike Middaugh, asked that all veterans and their families receive recognition. (JoAnn R. Walter Photo)

Following the wreath laying, veterans and their families were invited to a ceremony and luncheon at the Town of Owego Shared Services Building, located on Route 434.

Owego V.F.W. 1371 member and Vietnam Veteran Dean Morgan opened the ceremony. Middaugh asked all to stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then asked guests to take a moment of silence in remembrance of Tioga County’s 21, along with veterans and loved ones who have since passed away.

“We lost another brother just this morning to Agent Orange,” Middaugh somberly stated, adding, “Many were exposed to Agent Orange, and we’ve lost 300,000 since the war ended and we lose more each day. It is known as the silent killer, and some say, ‘I died in Vietnam but just didn’t know it.’”

Middaugh asked Vietnam Veterans in attendance to stand if they were able, or to raise their hands while seated, to recognize and thank them for their service and sacrifice; and to say, “Welcome Home.”

Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!

During a March 29 ceremony recognizing Vietnam War Veterans Day, veterans received pins and challenge coins. Pictured, Tioga County Veterans’ Service Agency Director Mike Middaugh shakes hands with a veteran. (JoAnn R. Walter Photo)

Middaugh also thanked spouses and other family members for their sacrifices, which enabled their loved ones to serve.

Middaugh and his staff handed out commemorative lapel pins and a challenge coin to all veterans. Spouses also received a blue star pin in recognition of their support back home. 

“These are a lasting memento of our nation’s gratitude,” Middaugh noted about the pin and coin, which recognize the Vietnam Veteran’s courage, honor and dedication to service.

While handing out the pins and coins, Middaugh shook each veteran’s hand and said, “Welcome Home, my brother,” or, “Welcome Home, sir.”

Middaugh further noted, “Clearly there is something about this special day that helps cleanse those who served.” 

Welcome Home, Vietnam Vets!

From left, Vietnam Veteran Roger Brame and his wife, Rose, show pins and coins they received in recognition of Vietnam War Veterans Day. Veterans received a pin and challenge coin, and spouses received a blue star pin. (JoAnn R. Walter Photo)

Cliff Sherwood, Sr., a V.F.W. 1371 member who is active in the color and honor guards, remembered his good friend, Jim Zimmer, whose name is etched on the Tioga County Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“I went to high school with Jim in Newark Valley,” Sherwood explained, and further shared that it helps now to honor and remember his friend by, “Running my fingers along his engraved name on the memorial.”

To learn more, call the Veterans’ Service Agency at (607) 687-8228, or visit their offices located in the Ronald E. Dougherty County Office Building at 56 Main St. in Owego, N.Y.

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