In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Marshall County Vietnam veterans and casualties are being honored with a traveling display entitled “Remembering Vietnam.” The tribute, which is sponsored by the Marshall County Judge/Executive’s office and the Marshall County Public Library, was unveiled at the annual Veterans Day ceremony at Mike Miller Park on November 11 and will be featured at all three branches of the library in the coming weeks.
“We wanted to do something special for all those who served in Vietnam,” said Justin Lamb, who organized the display which honors the seven men from Marshall County who lost their lives in Vietnam as well as the veterans who served and returned home. Marshall Countians Jerry Dunigan, Billie Presson, Ronald Reed, James Glisson, Noel Jaco, James Michael “Mickey” Hall, and Ronnie Gipson all died in service in the Vietnam War nearly five decades ago.
“The names of the seven men from Marshall County who died in Vietnam are on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.,” said Lamb, “But these heroic Americans were much more than names on a wall. They were fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, friends, and neighbors and we wanted to put faces with these names so future generations would know of their sacrifice,” he said.
The display features photographs and military artifacts from the Vietnam War era and focuses primarily on Marshall County’s effort in the war. Included in the display are jungle boots, fatigues, helmets, canteens, dog tags, and various other memorabilia from the era.
“Vietnam veteran Gary Jones of Hardin was very helpful with this display and lent us many of his own personal military gear from his years of service in Vietnam,” Lamb said.
It is veterans like Gary Jones who Lamb wishes to honor as well. “Everyone wants to remember the Vietnam era as a dividing time in American history, but it was also an era that produced a great generation of young men who answered our country’s call of duty and proudly served our nation,” Lamb said.
The United States involvement in the Vietnam War lasted from 1954 through 1975 with approximately 2,709,918 Americans, both drafted and enlisted, serving the war effort. By the war’s end, a staggering total of 58,222 American soldiers laid down their lives in service during the Vietnam War.
During the 1960s, the war received extensive media coverage and the Vietnam conflict was often called America’s “first television war” with more images of conflicts and battles landing on the nightly news than ever before. As the war dragged on, soon the American public began losing faith in the war effort and never before had an American war been protested so loudly at home. College campuses lit up with protests and young men began burning their draft cards and refused to serve in the war. Occasionally, the frustrations of the protestors were taken out on the soldiers returning home.
“When the soldiers from World War II returned home, they were greeted with celebration and victory parades,” Lamb said. “Sadly, many of the soldiers returning home from Vietnam weren’t given their well deserved hero’s welcome, but were met with protests due to the war’s unpopularity,” he continued. “They did what they were asked to do and they did it to the best of their abilities and that alone makes them the heroes of their generation. I hope in some small way this display serves as a thank you to each and every Vietnam veteran for their service,” Lamb concluded.
The “Remembering Vietnam” display will be featured at the Benton Library Branch November 14 thru November 21; Calvert Library Branch November 21 thru November 28; and Hardin Library Branch November 28 to December 5.