The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Reichley: Vietnam War theme of this year’s Salute

  • Last year I provided readers three chances to read about a humongous veterans event hosted by those patriotic librarians across the river.

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  • Last year I provided readers three chances to read about a humongous veterans event hosted by those patriotic librarians across the river.
    They’ve done it for 15 years now so this will be Veterans Salute number 16. The last three were in Platte City, the closest Mid-Continent Public Library to the Leavenworth area, which sort of guaranteed a large group of visitors from this area.
    Alas, during those years a larger and newer library was built in Smithville, several miles to the east of Platte City, and the folks at library headquarters want to show it off, so the 2012 Salute will be in Smithville.
    It’s only 10 or so minutes beyond Platte City, and should not hinder anyone from this area going. And, the bridge slowdown work is supposed to be completed by early fall, making the trip that much faster. Hallelujah.
    Each year the planning committee chief chooses a theme for the Salute, based on military history. Two years ago it was the anniversary of the Korean War, and last year the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
    This year is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam, or MAC-V, causing the theme to be the Vietnam War.
    So the planning committee has been scouring the bushes in many areas looking for Vietnam War veterans to be there in several capacities. One will be a 10-veteran roundtable discussion with veterans of all services telling what they did and answering questions from the audience. Several Leavenworth area vets will be on the panel.
    While volunteering at the National WW I Museum in Kansas City recently I saw a man enter wearing a U.S. Navy cap. A couple of hours later when he left I notice the South Vietnamese flag on the back of the cap.
    I asked if he was a Navy veteran of Vietnam, of which I have met few, and he said he was, but that he hadn’t been on a ship. He’d been on a small boat within the river system of South Vietnam in what was called “the Brown Water Navy.”
    I’d never met a Brown Water vet and quickly invited him to the Salute, which he immediately accepted. He jumped at the chance to be on the panel, so a member of a very little known Navy unit will share some of his tales with visitors at the Salute.
    There is an organization of former South Vietnamese military personnel in the Kansas City area and the group holds periodic events and invites the public. I went to one, and was surprised to see about 40 aging Vietnamese men wearing colorful camouflaged uniforms and corresponding berets.
    I sought out the leader and invited the whole group to Smithville, and he said he would spread the word. If any at all show up it will certainly add color to the proceedings.
    Page 2 of 2 - Before room is gone let me hasten to add that the date is Oct. 20, a Saturday, a day you can drive across the bridge without any delay. At least we hope that will be the case.
    The three area Medal of Honor recipients are all Vietnam War vets and all have received several invitations. As of deadline, only one has said he plans to be there. All three have attended Salutes in the past, and since this one honors them, the planning committee hopes all three will attend.
    The committee has even tracked down some Vietnam War re-enactors in the Kansas City area, about six who wear U.S. jungle fatigues and six who wear reproduction North Vietnamese or Vietcong uniforms.
    More details in a September column. You can go mark your calendar right now, however.
    John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.

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