LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — In November, as part of Veterans Day, the nation is paying special tribute to those who served in Vietnam as part of the 50th anniversary of the arrival of American ground troops in that southeast Asian nation.
One Vietnam veteran is working to make sure no vet is ever forgotten.
“Honoring the flag and their service and sacrifice,” Lynn Rolf explained.
A helmet on top of a rifle with a soldier’s boots below. Battle crosses pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. They stand as part of a memorial outside the VA Medical Center in Leavenworth, thanks in part to the efforts of retired Colonel Lynn Rolf, a Vietnam veteran.
“We as a generation, us Vietnam vets, have said we will never let another generation come back from war and be treated the way we were treated,” Rolf said. “That’s been our promise to those vets returning.”
It took a while for Rolf and other veterans to convince the VA to allow a memorial to be built on this land. Tens of thousands of dollars in public and private donations followed for the granite and sculptures that Rolf wishes had been in place 50 years ago.
“During the early years when soldiers came back they were not appreciated,” he said. “They were viewed in disgust by our nation. Such a sad, really stigma and disgrace for us to treat our warriors like that. I couldn’t really fathom what it was.”
For Vietnam veterans honoring and recognizing the sacrifices of future generations of soldiers is important to them because this is something that they feel like they never received.
“We just can’t forget and not welcome them home and thank them for their service,” Rolf said.
None of the soldiers honored at the memorial fought in Vietnam. They are much more recent casualties, defending the nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Vietnam veterans say they are proud of they way our country now recognizes veterans.
“When the nation’s arms aren’t open to you to come home it is hard,” Rolf said. “War is hell. It’s not something you just discuss on the family couch.”
That’s why Rolf says the Vietnam anniversary should be a time to remember prisoners of war and those missing in action as well as honoring all the warriors who have fought for America.
Vietnam veterans are being recognized this year as part of Leavenworth County’s Veterans Day parade. Vets from all around the Midwest will ride or walk in the 2-mile procession.