Vietnam Vets Honored in St. Clairsville

Retired judge Harry White believes Americans need to say two things to veterans of the Vietnam era: “Thank you” for your service, and “you’re welcome” back here at home.

White was the featured speaker as American Legion Post 159 held a service Thursday morning on the plaza in front of the Belmont County Courthouse to honor the men and women who served the nation during that conflict. The purpose of the event was to thank them for their sacrifices and to provide them with the welcome many of them did not receive when they returned home.

Legion Post Commander Joe Barker served as the master of ceremonies. He welcomed the more than 40 people who turned out for the service despite the cool and rainy weather. He also talked briefly about his own service and that of his fellow servicemen and women.

St. Clairsville Mayor Terry Pugh addressed the crowd, saying the city was proud to host the event. He also spoke about the sacrifices thousands of men and women made for the nation during the Vietnam War.

White, who served in the military from 1959-76 and as a Belmont County Western Division Court judge for many years, reminded the audience of the turbulent times that surrounded the Vietnam War in America. During that period while many civilians disagreed about whether the United States should even be involved in the conflict, 58,267 military men and women gave their lives in the line of duty.

Speaking from the steps of the Belmont County Sheriff’s Residence Museum, he also discussed the origins of the word “welcome,” which is derived from words for “upon arrival” and “worthy of admiration.” He said those veterans who returned from Vietnam were certainly worthy of other Americans’ admiration. While they deserved to be welcomed home decades ago, he said they and all veterans today deserve access to first-class health care and opportunities for education and employment.

When called to assemble together, two dozen Vietnam veterans stepped forward from the crowd and gathered with members of the honor guard on the plaza for a photograph. The honor guard fired a volley in their honor and stood at attention while “Taps” was played.

In addition to organizers and community members, the St. Clairsville High School band turned out for the event, playing the national anthem and other patriotic selections.

It was also noted that May 29 had been declared National Vietnam Veterans Day.