Vietnam vets in focus at Veterans Day program
Local Vietnam era veterans and their survivors were honored in a special pinning ceremony at the Clarence A. Larson American Legion Post 23’s Veterans Day program Monday morning at the Memorial Hall in Rugby.
Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Panama, Iraq, and Afghanistan sat on stage where they were thanked and honored for their service. Marine veteran and Pierce County Sheriff Josh Siegler served as chaplain for the event, leading the opening prayer and benediction.
Special guest retired US Army Colonel John W. Radke spoke to the crowd, commemorating veterans who served during the time the United States was engaged in the Vietnam War.
Radke said Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both addressed the need to recognize those who served in Vietnam in speeches during their terms in office.
“President Trump signed a proclamation about a year ago that makes the 29th of March National Vietnam War Veterans Day in perpetuity. In other words, every 29th of March, we’re going to celebrate across this nation and remember specifically the Vietnam era veterans,” Radke told the group.
“(That includes) anyone who served in active duty from 1 November 1955, through 15 May 1975.”
“That’s a 19 year window of time, and the location of where that service was is immaterial,” he continued.
“One of the reasons that President Bush, President Obama and President Trump talked about this, is an awful lot of veterans were not properly thanked for your service when you came back,” Radke noted.
Radke and Post 23 Commander Rod Torgerson invited vets who had served during the Vietnam era to receive pins in a short ceremony at the front of the auditorium.
Radke said pins and certificates are also awarded to surviving POWs, immediate family members of personnel missing in action during the conflict, and surviving family members of personnel listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C.
“We also have a Deceased Vietnam Veteran Surviving Spouse pin and certificate, and we’re going to present one of those today,” Radke said.
Radke called Patricia Kuhnhenn, widow of Vietnam veteran Daryl Kuhnhenn to the front of the room, where she received the certificate and pin to applause from the audience.
Veterans from all conflicts were recognized as well.
Three veterans from earlier conflicts sat on the stage with other honored guests: Ray Norsby, who had served in Korea, and Frederick Duane Baillie and Gabriel Scheet, who served in World War II.
Baillie and Scheet share membership in the Rugby Post’s “Last Man Standing” Club for World War II vets.
“Just two of us left,” Baillie said.
Baillie, who was known as the owner and pharmacist at Baillie’s Rexall Drugs in Rugby for many years, served in both World War II and Korea, active in the military for 10 years as a medic before he completed his education in North Dakota and he and his wife, Irene, settled with their children in Rugby as he went to work for the family pharmacy.
Baillie said his family knew him by his middle name, Duane, for most of his life, because “my father’s name was Fred Baillie.”
He smiled as he recalled a time when he was in the Army, training in Alabama.
“The Sarge called me ‘Fred Baillie,'” he said. “I said, ‘Only my mother calls me that!'”
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