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Monday, November 5, 2012

A little town honors her military sons & daughters - and an idea for Honor Flight Vietnam!

Emily's niece Annaliese pointing to Emily's name
Emily's nephew Landon getting in on the action

Emily F. Vanden Heuvel's name has been added to the Town of Erin Veterans' Monument.

         Mom Maureen, aunt Erin, sister Fawn, nephew Landon, niece Annaliese, and dad Tom at the Erin Veterans' Monument now bearing the name of U.S. Marine Emily F. Vanden Heuvel
On Saturday, Nov. 3, I went to a dedication ceremony of names to be added to the Erin Veterans' Monument. I never expected to be as moved as I was by the ceremony that honored a dozen service men and women.

I was there to honor the daughter of my friend Maureen. Emily F. Vanden Heuvel is a U.S. Marine from Erin who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. She survived her hitch over there and remains a Marine. However, her duty prevented her from seeing her name dedicated.

Tom Vanden Heuvel (with Marine jacket) stands for his daughter when her name is called
Erin is a little town, population under 4,000, located in the rolling glacial hills of Wisconsin. Ten years ago the town erected a humble and lovely little obelisk honoring the sons and daughters of Erin who served in conflicts from the time of the Civil War up to the present.

The ceremony opened with a short speech by Michael Eggleston, the Senior Vice Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars #8834. He called for us all to honor our warriors as the Native Americans revere their warriors. He reminded us that every one of today's warriors is a volunteer serving his or her country.
Michael Eggleston & the Erin Veterans' Monument
Eggleston said something I've never before heard uttered by a military person. He went through a catalog of our wars. Then he said, "War is never wanted nor is it popular with everyone. Only history tells us if the war was necessary or worth the sacrifice."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. In the past, I've only heard military people defend wars, no matter their outcomes.

Tonight, I called Eggleston on the phone. I asked him if my ears had deceived me.

He explained, "We can't wait for history to determine if it is necessary or worth the sacrifice. We have to support the troops one hundred percent."

He added that the warriors themselves do not have the luxury of waiting for history to determine if a war is necessary or worth the sacrifice. Today's warriors volunteer. When they are called, they serve.

Eggleston said that forty years later, history still has not determined if the war in Vietnam was necessary or worth the sacrifice.

"But we can't judge today's wars today. We can't say 'Get the troops out.' How do we know?  The determination of history may be long afterward. A war affects not only our country, but the world."

Tommy "T" Tradewell was the guest speaker. Past National Commander in Chief of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam veteran, Tradewell spoke of that war. He said those warriors dealt with heat and humidity, illness, the jungle, and the enemy. But the worst, he said, was when they came home and were not welcomed. For years many Vietnam veterans didn't mention that they served there for fear of ramifications. He emphasized how important it is to thank a veteran. He said, "A simple thank you means so much."

The color guard stood in the cold for a half-hour before the ceremony and for the half-hour of the ceremony.

The honor guard did a 21-gun salute. A bugler played Taps to tear your heart out.
My friend Mark Metscher recently accompanied his father, Ray, on an Honor Flight from Milwaukee to Washington DC. There Ray was able to see the World War II memorial, along with other WWII vets. When they returned to Milwaukee at 12:30 am, there were thousands of people waiting at the airport to greet them and cheer for them.

It's my dream that Honor Flights will come soon for Vietnam vets.

I spoke with Eggleston and Tradewell after the dedication ceremony. They said that before Vietnam vets get free Honor Flight trips to DC, the Korean Conflict vets will be so honored.

Imagine Vietnam veterans coming home to thousands of people cheering for them! It can't happen soon enough.

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