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KATIE ZERR: Our community helps to right a wrong

On Saturday, Aug. 11, an event was held in the Mobridge-Pollock High School gym that was meant to right a wrong and help to heal old wounds for the Vietnam veterans of our community.
When these soldiers returned home after serving our country during this war there were no parades, no welcome groups at the airports or at military bases. There were no bands, no dignitaries saluting, no signs along the highways thanking them for serving.
Instead, those who served in the misery of the Vietnam War were shunned by our nation’s citizens when they returned home from the jungle.
Few smiled, shook their hands and thanked them for their service. Instead they sometimes endured scorn, ridicule and were treated with outright disdain from the people that they had sworn to protect.
For a teenager who had family members with boots on the ground in Vietnam, it was a terrible time. For my family, with a son and brother in the middle of the worst fighting and a sister and daughter in Japan patching up the seriously wounded that were flown there, it was a time of fear and uncertainty.
It was a very unpopular war. Daily body counts reminded us that this conflict was one most felt we should not be supporting.
There were incidents that turned Americans against soldiers when atrocities came to light during the war.
The My Lai massacre, and other horrific incidents of the war were publicized and when those fighting in the war returned home, they were labeled as baby killers and rapists, no matter where they served. Morale was low in the military at home and in bases around the world. The majority did not deserve to be treated as they were.
I remember my brother Pat and his friends who returned to the U.S. after their service not wanting to talk about it. For them, the horrific memories of that war were not of glory to save our world, but of misery and shame.
My brother received a bronze star for his heroic effort to save wounded soldiers trapped in a foxhole in a combat zone.
That story, that meritorious award along with Pat’s uniform sat in my father’s closet for many years. It was moved to a drawer in mother’s dresser where she cherished it and the story of his bravery for years after his death.
So many of these soldiers did not deserve to be ashamed of what they did. They did what our country asked of them.
On Saturday, they received some of the appreciation they deserved. They were thanked time and time again in an emotional tribute to their service.
I personally want to thank Bob Thomason and Justin Loesch for the work they did helping to heal the wounds and taking steps to right a wrong.
Thank you veterans. It was a long time coming.