Vietnam vets receive a late thank you

Published 9:23 am Thursday, March 26, 2015

Scores of Vietnam veterans packed into the Clemmons VFW Post on Monday night for a welcome home ceremony that has been 50 years in coming.

It was a touching ceremony conducted by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and part of an on-going national effort to re-do the Vietnam War veterans’ reception home.

I watched maybe 80 old soldiers — some balding, most gray, some with canes and walkers, some looking remarkably fit for their ages — troop forward to accept pins and certificates in a public observance of their service to America. A few could still remarkably fit into their old uniforms.

“Welcome home. Thank you for your service.”

The phrase was repeated 80 times with fervor by the DAR women who really meant it.

Old soldiers came with their wives and children.

“Turn this way, Daddy,” one daughter urged to get a picture.

Former post commander Ray Templeton arrived in his Navy blues and pulled out his cell phone for a “selfie” with the DAR presenters.

He couldn’t have done that 50 years ago.

It occurred to me as I watched that the veterans may need this “re-do” less than the rest of us. We civilians were the ones who botched their return from the jungles of Vietnam, and the attempts to get it right are just as much for us as for the veterans.

The shabby reception Vietnam soldiers received has become a national embarrassment.

There was a big ceremony at the Charlotte Motor Speedway a couple of years ago. VFW district commander Don Isaacs of Pilot Mountain said Monday night’s much smaller ceremony was more to his liking.

“This was an unpopular war,” he acknowledged.

Popular or not, the soldiers still faced live bullets and the horrors of war. They were doing their duty.

The war experience of the Vietnam soldier was much different than that experienced by soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq. Today’s soldiers have cell phones and Skype and computers to keep in touch with their families.

While in Vietnam, Isaacs said he went so long in writing home to his family that they contacted the Red Cross to see if he was okay. With his commanding officer watching, he wrote home.

The families of two local soldiers killed in Vietnam were there. Army 1st Sgt. Bill Lowder of Clemmons and PFC Harvey  Richard McCuiston of Advance were killed in action at the height of the war. McCuiston was killed on Aug. 19, 1969 Quan Nam Province. Lowder, 45 at the time of his death in Tan An, was a military career man who had also serving in the Korean War. He is buried at Union Hill Baptist Church cemetery.

The Clemmons VFW Post is named for McCuiston, Lowder and World War II casualty James Brewer.

Chickadees Moving In

There are rebels even among the bird population.

A pair of chickadees have spent the past week packing moss inside a bluebird box in my backyard. I had hoped for bluebirds. According to everything I’ve read, the bluebird box is too big, not the right height and the hole is the wrong size for chickadees. Still, they’re moving in with luggage and plans to stay.

I’ve added two “wren” houses to the lawn this spring hoping to keep wrens out of the bluebird box.

Wren houses are smaller than bluebird houses — maybe even the right size for chickadees. The new quarters have gone unnoticed.

— Dwight Sparks