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A member of the NC-5 chapter of Rolling Thunder, an organization for Vietnam War veterans, looks upon the walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial portion of the Lejeune Memorial Gardens after the Vietnam Recognition Day, April 24. The event is in remembrance of all Vietnam veterans and the mental and physical scars they live with every day.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Vietnam Recognition Day honors the once unhonored

24 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

It was a war fueled by politics, where the innocent and the enemy wore the same clothing. A war that many America’s service members thought was pointless, and when returning home, were spit upon by the people they fought and died to protect.

This was the Vietnam War, waged from 1959 to 1975, it amounted in a total approximation of 58,193 Americans dead, according to the website archives.gov. These are the warriors that service members, veterans and civilians of the Onslow County community came together to remember during the first Vietnam Recognition Day held at the Onslow Vietnam Veterans Memorial, April 24.

“This isn’t just a day for those who died, but for those who haven’t returned home yet,” said Paul Levesque, president of the NC-5 chapter of Rolling Thunder, an organization for Vietnam War veterans. “We now have a place in our own backyard for everyone who lost a little of themselves in Vietnam.”

April 24, 1975, brought about the end of the fighting between the Communist and Anti-Communist forces, even though the Paris Peace Accords was signed by both parties two years earlier. Many consider the Vietnam War the turning point of modern conflict, where the methods of confrontation became more brutal and the enemy became less distinguished. Coupled by negative coverage from the American and hostile reactions from the public, it was a war that left many scarred.

“More than once have I heard people say America lost that war,” said Richard Ray, a Vietnam War veteran who is involved in Veteran Affairs. “Everyone who served there paid a terrible price, but not I or anyone else on that battlefield lost that war.”

It was for this reason that the ceremony, hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 654, was started. Families, friends and community members wanted to show their everlasting gratitude to those who suffered in a time where a war was fought both overseas and at home.

“The public now has a place to recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and those who still carry the memories around with them,” said Levesque.

After the ceremony and prayers, attendees walked around the circular memorial, constructed around a water fountain to look upon the names inscribed in the glass walls. For some these names are a simple list in memoriam, yet for others faces emerge from the glass, smiling with the knowledge that they are not, and never will be, forgotten.