Vietnam vets saluted


Ron Sampson, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel from Hillsboro, spoke Friday at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie in Hillsboro to honor National Vietnam Veterans Day before reading the names of the 11 Highland County veterans killed in Vietnam at the Highland County Veterans Memorial at the courthouse.

National Vietnam Veterans Day was proclaimed in 2012 by President Barack Obama and signed into law in 2017 by former President Donald Trump. The last of America’s troops left Vietnam and the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disestablished on March 29, 1973. More than 58,000 Americans were killed in the war.

Highland County Auditor Alex Butler presented a proclamation proclaiming the day as Vietnam War Veterans Day on behalf of the Highland County Board of Commissioners to Gerold Wilkin of the Highland County Veterans Honor Guard.

Sampson was assigned to fly C130 cargo aircraft, and he flew missions throughout the Southeast Asia Theater, primarily flying combat missions in Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force in 1997 after 30 years of active duty.

“Thanks to all the veterans who have come here today,” said Sampson. “Our ranks our getting thinner, and it’s been a while, as you know, since that war was over, and we’ll keep honoring the service as long as there are a few of us around to do that.”

Sampson said the day is not really a celebration but a recognition.

“We can debate for a long time whether we won or lost the war in Vietnam,” he said. “We never lost a major battle against the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong, but we certainly lost the peace. We thought we had a peace agreement that would hold, but we did not.”

Sampson lamented the way Vietnam veterans were treated upon returning home. “When we came home there were no victory parades for the major units that came home,” he said. “We were treated badly when we came home, and most of us just avoided association with the Vietnam War.

He said most of the people killed in the war were young men between 18 and 20 years old. “All answered the call to serve,” he said. “Some bear visible scars, and some have scars that are deeper and won’t heal. From and old lifer, I have to say a heartfelt thank you for your service and welcome home.”

Sampson read the names of the 11 Highland County veterans killed in Vietnam at the Highland County Veterans Memorial in Hillsboro, and a wreath was placed at the memorial in their honor. Members of the Highland County Veterans Honor Guard fired a gun salute in honor of those killed in Vietnam and taps was played.

The 11 Highland County veterans killed in Vietnam were: Cary F. McAfee, Neil J. Morris, Donald W. Priest Jr., Charles R. Lovedahl, Robert Charles Wing, David L. McConnaughey, John R. Crouse, Mark L. Hook, William E. Brown, Ollie J. Gross and James H. Waulk Jr.

Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.

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