Members of the Highlanders Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) spoke at the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) Aerie in Hillsboro Tuesday to honor National Vietnam Veterans Day and talk about the proposed Revolutionary War Memorial planned to be built on the south side of the Highland County Courthouse.
National Vietnam Veterans Day was proclaimed in 2012 by President Barack Obama and signed into law in 2017 by 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.
Gary Duffield of the Highlanders Chapter of the SAR spoke about his time as an electronic warfare repairman in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
“A lot of you served here, and I want to thank you for your service,” said Duffield. “A lot of people were coming back in body bags or injured.”
Duffield served in Thailand from 1969 to 1971 and did not see any combat.
“A lot of afflictions that us veterans are facing, I encounter too with the herbicides and chemicals that I was exposed to,” he said. “A lot of us, even in the Air Force, are fighting those battles, too.”
Duffield spoke about the anti-war sentiments Vietnam veterans faced returning to the U.S. “You got out of your military uniform as fast as you could when you got off the airplane because they would spit at you and cuss at you,” he said. “I wasn’t ashamed of what I did, but I just didn’t feel comfortable.”
Jack Bredenforder, treasurer of the Highlanders Chapter of the SAR, said that his organization, in addition to honoring patriots of the American Revolution, supports all veterans. “A lot of people don’t know that we do support veterans, not only the past veterans that we are honoring as our Revolutionary War soldiers, but also current and immediate past veterans like Vietnam War veterans, so I would like to honor all the Vietnam veterans here today,” he said.
The Highlanders Chapter of the SAR is planning to build a Revolutionary War Memorial with names of patriots that were born, lived and died or were buried in Highland County engraved on it. The organization is currently researching and verifying names for the memorial.
“We want to make sure it represents as many of the patriots that we can find here in Highland County and make sure those names are accurate and correct,” said Bredenforder. “In the process, we’d like to encourage participation from families here to find out about your ancestors because it’s so important right now.”
After receiving estimates from three monument companies, the SAR estimates the project will cost about $35,000. The Highlanders Chapter of the SAR would like to dedicate the memorial July 4, 2026. “So, as we move forward, I would love to see this happen for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution which is scheduled for 2026,” said Bredenforder.
Accompanied by a 21-gun salute from the Highland County Veterans Honor Guard, wreaths in honor of Americans killed in Vietnam were placed at the Highland County Veterans Memorial by the Highlanders Chapter of the SAR and local Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) members Janet Florence and Elissa Zornes.
Highlanders Chapter SAR member Gerold Wilkin read the names of Highland County Vietnam veterans who lost their lives in the war.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.