Created on Saturday, 30 March 2013 Written by NATE SMITH
ABOVE: The Logan County Vietnam Veterans Memorial, situated along east Brown Avenue, honors the 32 Logan County veterans who died or are missing in action in Vietnam. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Vietnam veteran Mike Brinkman poses with some of his service garb Friday at his residence. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | NATE SMITH)
Today is Vietnam Veteran’s Day in Ohio, and 40 years after the first troops returned from one of America’s most controversial engagements, a formal state holiday recognizes their service.
It’s the least they could do, agreed two local veterans of the conflict.
As a week long commemoration culminates today with the holiday and a separate local ceremony, veterans Mike Brinkman and Bob Foughty reflect about their time in Vietnam, how they were treated when they came home and why it’s taken so long for veterans — especially Vietnam veterans — to get the respect they deserve.
A long time coming
Mr. Brinkman has been a vocal supporter of Vietnam veterans for decades.
He has been very active with the county honor guard during parades, demonstrations and funerals and gives talks about the Vietnam War in schools. He is very active in the POW/MIA programs in the area, and was instrumental in getting the Vietnam Memorial established in Mary Rutan Park.
Mr. Brinkman is emphatic about the need to remember all Vietnam veterans, but especially the 32 soldiers who were killed or are listed as missing in action. To recognize Vietnam veterans, is to help keep their memory alive, he said.
A half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall was on display this week at the Ohio History Center ahead of Vietnam Veterans Day. The slogan for the holiday is, “Welcome Home; Remember the Fallen.”
The 32 Logan County soldiers killed in Vietnam include:
Locally, Vietnam veteran former Army Sgt. William “Bill” Arnold is to be honored and presented with a U.S. flag that has flown over the Capital and the Ohio State House during a ceremony at noon today at the Carnegie Building at the intersection of Main Street and Sandusky Avenue.
For veterans subjected to the hostility that greeted many them upon their return, a little recognition from the government is the least elected officials can do, the Bellefontaine resident said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they did it, but it’s too little, too late,” said Mr. Brinkman, himself a permanently wounded veteran of the conflict.
The former U.S. Army sniper and three-time Purple Heart recipient lost his right leg in Vietnam after stepping on a land mine. He says he was protested against as soon as he got home.
“I came off the ship in uniform using crutches and was protested,” Mr. Brinkman said. “I’m still very bitter about what my country did to me when I got home.
“We were an eyesore for people when we came home. The war was very unpopular by then and people didn’t want anything to do with us.”
Mr. Foughty mentioned how highly politicized Vietnam became, especially as it neared its end and emotions over issues like civil rights ran increasingly high.
The West Liberty resident said he re-enlisted after six months in Vietnam and ended up as an Army mechanic in Germany.
“I think it’s great they’re having a day for Vietnam veterans,” Mr. Foughty said. “It should have happened when we first came home.”
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