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‘We’re not going to forget you’

April 2, 2017 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — Organizers of a Vietnam Veterans Day event Friday wanted to send a message to those who served in that country: Welcome home.

“It might’ve been 50 years,” said Jim Allen, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, Mohave County Chapter 975, the lead agency putting on the event. “Still, we welcome them.”

While there was some tributes paid toward their service, speakers at the event also shared information on where veterans can get various types of assistance.

State Vietnam Veterans of America council president Gene Crego said that local veterans are getting noticed more of late. In the past few years, he said, five veterans from Mohave County have been inducted into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame.

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“We’re not going to forget you up here,” he told the audience of mostly veterans gathered at a meeting room on the Mohave Community College campus.

Crego said that U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, has been among those advocating for Arizona’s veterans in the wake of a scandal that led to the firing of several officials at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, including director Sharon Helman.

Speakers also remarked on the area’s support of veterans. Former Bullhead City Mayor Jack Hakim expressed pride in being the first community in Arizona to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day, and noted that President Donald Trump recently signed legislation designating March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day.

On that day in 1973, the last U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam.

Hakim and State Sen. Sonny Borrelli were presented with medals for their service to area veterans.

Borrelli said that history has given Vietnam veterans short shrift.

“They won every battle, every skirmish, every firefight during the war,” he said. “Every contact with the enemy.”

He said that a deal was reached that would bring peace to Vietnam and allow the South Vietnamese democracy to remain in place, but that Congress “reneged on its promise,” giving a “green light” to the communist North to invade South Vietnam.

“(U.S. troops) didn’t lose that war,” Borrelli said.

Allen recalled the way servicemen helped one another out in Vietnam, and said they will continue to do so back home. He also turned his thoughts to those killed in the conflict.

“I went to ’Nam and I did my job,” Allen said. “I was not a hero. The heroes came back in body bags.”

Allen said he was pleased with the turnout, believing that the information shared there will be taken to other veterans who could not attend.

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Borrelli said events like Friday’s are important because they remind citizens to honor veterans, and that the Vietnam Veterans Day event helps people remember that it’s not just about the names on the wall, and that everyone who served in Vietnam made a sacrifice.

Dan Martell, who was stationed in the South China Sea during the conflict, said Vietnam Veterans Day is a good way of reaching out to veterans whom he said need to be brought back into society.

“Some are still thinking they don’t fit into society,” he said. “Not even after all this time.”