(Le Mars) — Saturday is Veteran’s Day, a day we honor and pay tribute to our nation’s military veterans. Veteran’s Day was organized following the end of World War I which officially ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month of the year. Earlier this week, KLEM news visited with four area Viet Nam era veterans about their thoughts of Veterans Day, and whether or not enough people honor Veteran’s Day.
The four veterans include Jack Frus of the Air Force, Bob Gengler with the Navy, Jim Rolfes with the Army, and Wayne Theiman with the Marines. The question was asked whether the area veterans believe that too many people take their freedoms for granted? Jim Rolfes was the first to respond.
With an estimate of 500 Veterans dying each day, Bob Gengler is concerned about the future of the American Legion organization, and he encourages younger veterans from the Gulf War and the War on Terror to participate and actively belong to the American Legion.
Many Viet Nam veterans were not given much, if any, respect when they returned home to the States in the mid 1970’s. Outside their individual families, there were few homecoming celebrations to welcome home Viet Nam veterans. All four of the Viet Nam veterans we spoke to, admitted they witnessed Americans across the country who turned their backs, and rejected Viet Nam veterans when they returned home. But is that attitude changing? Are Americans more accepting of all veterans today, and especially of the Viet Nam veterans? Jack Frus says he believes the attitude has gotten better.
Wayne Theiman says many people either don’t know, or have forgotten, that it was the Viet Nam era veterans that are responsible for the memorial in our nation’s capital, and for many of today’s veteran assistance programs.
Theiman says its the Viet Nam veterans that have pushed for the recovery of the Missing In Action and Killed In Action, and not just those from the Viet Nam war, but with wars before and after the Viet Nam conflict. He says many Viet Nam Veterans want to make certain that no other veteran is mistreated, or disrepected when they come back home.
Three of the veterans interviewed say they have visited the Viet Nam War Memorial Wall located in Washington D.C. Bob Gengler is the only one not to have the opportunity, but says it is on his list of things to do. The Viet Nam Memorial Wall was controversial when it was first proposed. Frus, Rolfes, and Theiman all speak about how emotional it was for each of them when they first saw the Viet Nam Wall.
Theiman reminds people that if you are unable to visit Washington D.C. you do have an opportunity to see a smaller replica of the Viet Nam Wall here in Siouxland.
Although Gengler has not yet seen the Viet Nam wall at our nation’s capital, he has seen replicas, including a traveling version that made an appearance some years back here at Le Mars.
Everyday, we should thank a veteran for their service to this country, but today especially, all veterans should be told their service is greatly appreciated.