German Village Gazette

Ceremony caps off 4 days honoring Vietnam War vets


Central Ohioans can pay their respects to fallen Vietnam War soldiers during a program at 4 p.m. Friday, March 29 in the Ohio History Center, 800 E. 17th Ave.

"The Wall That Heals, Wall Retirement and Remembrance" ceremony will cap off a four-day commemoration honoring those who served in the Vietnam War. The event is free and open to the public.

"The idea of this ceremony is to honor those who have fallen, those who didn't make it home and the innocent lives lost during the war," said Mike McKinney, communications director for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services.

This year marks the first state level recognition of Vietnam Veterans' Day, which is Saturday, March 30.

Because of the Easter holiday, services were held earlier, McKinney said.

The Wall That Heals, which is affiliated with the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is one of eight that travels around the country.

"We're very fortunate to get this particular wall here for our commemoration," McKinney said.

The week was filled with memorial activities both at the history center, which is part of the Ohio Historical Society, and the Statehouse.

The Wall That Heals, Wall Retirement and Remembrance ceremony will be preceded by a panel discussion at 10 a.m. today, Thursday, March 28.

The discussion about the aftermath of Vietnam will be conducted by veterans. It will be held in the history center.

The lineup includes:

* Thomas Burke, Navy veteran and president of the Buckeye State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America, who will talk about the intolerance he experienced when coming home from the war.

* Hoac Ngo, a pilot in the South Vietnamese air force, will discuss the nine years he spent in a communist prison after the war.

* Jeffrey Race, an Army veteran and current Harvard University professor, will speak about the war's impact on foreign policy and national security.

* Virginia Rayburn, an Army nurse who was not in Vietnam and who currently is a nurse executive at the Chalmers P. Wylie Veterans Administration Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus, will discuss the long-term health effects the war had on Vietnam veterans.

McKinney said the events are a time for celebration and reflection.

"This commemoration is important because Vietnam veterans never got the welcome home they earned for their service and deserved as veterans of a war," McKinney said.

"When Vietnam veterans came home their experience ranged from indifference to hostility, in some cases."