100 gather in Port Angeles to honor veterans of Vietnam War
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Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News
Tammy Sullenger, Clallam County veterans' programs manager, sets the POW/MIA table at the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony at the Clallam County Veterans Center on Sunday.
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Arwyn Rice/Peninsula Daily News
Norman Goodin of Port Angeles was the keynote speaker at Sunday’s ceremony.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Nearly 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, veterans of that conflict gathered in Port Angeles today to remember comrades and to feel the embrace of a welcome home they didn't get in the 1960s and '70s.

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day was marked Sunday at the Clallam County Veterans Center in Port Angeles to recognize veterans on the 39th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on March 30, 1975, the official end of the war.

About 100 veterans, veterans' spouses and supporters filed through the Avenue of Honor, a lineup of flags held by members of the American Legion Riders Post 29, to take part in the ceremony and reception.

The event included tributes to the 47,424 who died in Vietnam, the 303,704 who were hospitalized, 766 prisoners of war and a reading of the names of Clallam County residents who were killed in action.

More than 3 million Americans served in the Southwest Asia theater during the Vietnam War.

The ceremony also remembered the 2,086 still missing in action after four or five decades

“Some may still live. They are not forgotten,” said Gary Velie, president of the American Legion Riders Post 29.

Keynote speaker Norman Goodin, 68, of Port Angeles is the man who persuaded the Washington State Legislature to designate the date as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in 2010.

“It took about three or four months,” Goodin said to persuade lawmakers and then refine the proclamation declaring the occasion.

Now, the date is an annual event, and most states have adopted similar proclamations and recognition, he said.

Goodin spoke of the many locations, battles and operations of those who served in Vietnam.

He also spoke of comrades lost or captured and those who returned to the U.S. to receive abuse instead of parades and thanks.

One member of Goodin's division survived years as a prisoner of war, then returned to the U.S. to be beaten and injured in a bar parking lot and is now permanently disabled, he said.

The U.S. may have lost that war, but those years did serve a purpose, Goodin said.

“We held communism back for 10,000 days, he said.

Goodin, who is also a service officer, helping other veterans apply for the services for which they are eligible, also noted that for every man who set boots in the fields and jungles of Vietnam, there were nine soldiers behind him shipping supplies, training and doing everything that those in the field needed in order to do their job.

Everyone who served in the military during the war, whether they were on the front lines or manning a warehouse in the U.S., is a veteran.

“It took every man to complete a mission,” Goodin said.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 30. 2014 7:00PM
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