By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The killed-in-action, prisoner-of-war and missing-in-action veterans from the Vietnam War “are not forgotten.”
A sign with these words hung at East Marion Park in Fairmont on Monday morning during the Veterans Day service organized by the Marion County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Inc. The audience gathered in front of the monument there, which is dedicated “to all those who served in Vietnam and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The names of the 27 individuals from Marion County who did not return from Vietnam were read aloud. Wreaths and flowers were placed in front of the monument to memorialize those lost soliders, and mini-flags lined the sidewalks. A 21-gun salute was fired by members of the Marion County Honor Guard, and taps was played.
While on a diplomatic trade mission to Taiwan this past week, West Virginia state Sen. Roman Prezioso had the chance during his long flight to reflect on the United States’ military involvement in that area of the world. Upon arriving in Taiwan, he talked to a lot of people in the country’s government, and said the United States’ work there has not gone unnoticed.
“One of the things that was really apparent to me is the fact that as much as we appreciate our veterans and their efforts in all the wars, we do have allies all over the world,” Prezioso said. “The people (in Taiwan) are very appreciative of the work and efforts that were made in that part of the country to preserve their freedom.”
He said his recent trip made him think about all the troops that were miles away from home and their loved ones while fighting in the Vietnam War. Prezioso imagined how the soldiers felt as they were wondering about the attitude of the country and as they returned home to a nation in utter turmoil.
He praised this generation of men and women who fought to keep the United States free and gave everyone the opportunity to gather together peacefully Monday. Each year, the Marion County Vietnam Veterans pay tribute to their comrades and friends.
“We do appreciate the efforts of our veterans,” Prezioso said. “We will continue to support them in our efforts, and God bless all of you who have made this country free.”
Mike Caputo, majority whip for the West Virginia House of Delegates, said when the Vietnam veterans came back home years ago, they weren’t celebrated, and the country didn’t treat those brave soldiers well.
“You men and women, when you got called to duty, you never hesitated,” he said. “You served your country with dignity and you served your country with honor.”
Caputo thanked the Vietnam veterans in Marion County and across the country.
“I am so appreciative that you set aside this day every year to honor the duty and the service that you have provided to this country,” he said. “It is because of you brave men and women we’re here today ... and we enjoy the freedoms that each and every one of us enjoys from day to day.”
Delegate Linda Longstreth said one can’t express in words what the Vietnam veterans went through. She told those courageous veterans to be proud and stand tall, because the country is indebted to them for what they did in Vietnam.
“Each and every one of you has been a hero, and you’re a hero to me,” Longstreth said.
The annual Veterans Day memorial is a way for the Marion County Vietnam Veterans to remember comrades who served with them and those who never came home, she said.
“Today, Veterans Day, let us remember and show gratitude to all the veterans for service to our country,” Fairmont Mayor Ron Straight said Monday. “Their dedication and service should be recognized every day, but especially today. Let us also be reminded of the state of the brave men and women in the armed forces fighting abroad today.”
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.