Portions of the Welcome Speech given by Jim Kline,
Chairman of the Vietnam War Veterans Monument Committee on March 29, 2019.
Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
… This is why today was chosen to dedicate the monument before you.
It's been a long two and a half plus years.
Along the way there have been doubts … frustration … stress … …
moments when I wondered if I knew what I was doing.
But today … TODAY … makes it ALL worthwhile. … …
And it may sound a little conceited … but I am so PROUD
… of what WE have accomplished … that we finally get to say …
THANK YOU to our Veterans …
especially to those who served in Vietnam
… but also to all of you who put on the uniform
… and served our country in other parts of the world. …
… THANK YOU!
We often forget to say thanks to the families
of the men and women who served our country….
No one can understand the anxiety … worry … and heartaches
… that you went through when your loved ones were sent away
… not knowing whether you would get to see them again
… or in what condition they would return. …
Thank you, FAMILIES,
for being there behind us with your love and your support.
I want to thank The City of Hagerstown and Rodney Tissue
… Bryan Lynch and Antietam Broadband … Wes Decker
… the County Commissioners of Washington County … the State of Maryland
… Greencastle Bronze and Granite … Tecstone Granite of Columbus, Ohio
… Nick Varner and the Hagerstown Police Department
… Mark Haddock of Parks and Recreation
… Gary Shank … Stan Stouffer … Jim Hutson … and Pete Waters.
There's so many other people I would like to personally thank,
but I don't want to repeat, too much, what's already in the program.
Thanks to Milton Stamper, our general contractor,
for your knowledge (and your patience)
… to Casey Bakner and Pro-Fabricators
… to Dan and Sam with Dans Welding & Fabrication
… to Hagerstown Aviation Museum for loaning us the sound system for today
. … And to all of you who worked so hard to get the monument to us .…
Please know that even though I didn't mention you by name
(and I know I'm missing someone),
your help with this project is very much appreciated.
And to each and every one of you who gave a monetary contribution …
… please accept our heartfelt thanks. …
… Without you, what you see in front of you would not be possible.
Thanks also to my Mom, for bringing me into this world.
And although I won't tell you her age,
she brought me into this world almost 70 years ago. …
And last, but not least, I want to thank my wife
for all of the outstanding work you have done
… and for trying to keep me grounded … …
I can honestly say I could not have done this
without your help and your support.
It's hard to let go of something that you have worked so hard to achieve. …
… But after today ... this Monument will belong, officially,
to The City of Hagerstown …
… unofficially, though, the Monument will always belong
… to ALL of us.
To all the Veterans who served … …
and to those Veterans who never made it back … …
Portions of Keynote Speaker David Swain's Speech
March 29, 2019
This monument represents not just the veteran who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam like Washington County's own seventeen, but all military who served both in country and throughout our armed forces during the Vietnam War. I am honored and humbled to represent all my fellow Vietnam veterans and Vietnam era veterans.
I consider myself just an average guy who chose to join the Air Force in 1966. In August of 1968, I volunteered to go to Vietnam. Coming from a family where just about everyone served in a branch of the military, I take pride that my father, my stepfather, both my brothers and my sister and a host of uncles, aunts, and cousins served in the military. That’s why I readily decided to go to Vietnam. I felt that for me, it was the right thing to do.
I would like to give you some statistics about the Vietnam veteran that may be surprising to some, and enlightening to most. Seventy-five percent of Vietnam era veterans enlisted and only 25% were drafted, but 38% of them served in Vietnam. Thirty-four percent of African Americans volunteered for combat arms. Of the 2.7 million American who served in Vietnam, 58,479 were killed, 303,704 were wounded, 2,338 were either missing in action or a prisoner of war. There are also still 1,875 unaccounted for Americans.
There is no difference in drug use between Vietnam veterans and non-Vietnam veterans. Vietnam veterans are less likely to be in prison or have been in prison - only one-half of one percent of Vietnam veterans have been jailed for crimes. Eighty-five percent of Vietnam veterans made a successful transition to civilian life. Finally, 97% of Vietnam era veterans were honorably discharged and 90% of those who saw heavy combat are proud to have served their country. I mention these statistics to remind all of us, regardless what has been reported or wrote about the Vietnam veteran in the past, we were and are all brothers and sisters and we are secure in who we were and in who we are.
Some of my friends weren't as lucky as some of you and I. They didn't survive or came home with remnants of the war affecting their ability to function in society. These men and women, friends and family who served, are the reason I am proud to say I am a citizen of this great nation. Without the sacrifices that they gave and the hardships they faced and conquered, we wouldn't be able to breathe the air we breathe or walk the steps we take as a free nation.
Seventeen sons of Washington County gave their lives serving our country in Vietnam. Their sacrifices on behalf of all of us cannot and should not be in vain. All of us were touched in some way by a Vietnam veteran. By placing their names on this monument, they are being honored for giving everything not only for this county, but for this country. This is a beautiful monument and it has a home in one of the nicest city parks in the country.
I would be remiss, however, if I didn't mention the parents, wives and husbands that were left at home worrying and wondering on a daily basis if they would see their loved ones again. I also want to recognize a special person in my own life without whom my mental recovery would not have went well. When I returned from Vietnam in December 1969, I was disillusioned, angry, and lost. I remained that way for two and a half years till I met a young woman who knew me better than I knew myself, my future wife, Libby. Through her encouragement and understanding, I was able to get on with my life. My only regret over the past forty-six years of being with her, is that she passed away before we were able to have this dedication. She was a true patriot and loved all of her veterans, but had a special place in her heart for Vietnam veterans.
By attending this gathering today, you help to extend the pride we feel for our sons and daughters who have served in Vietnam or during the Vietnam War. Hopefully, the younger folks in attendance will continue this as a time honored tradition. Without our youth continuing to recognize our veterans, like their parents and grandparents have on Memorial and Veterans Day, this ceremony and others like it across this nation, will wither and die.
At this time, I would like to thank the Washington County Joint Veterans Council Vietnam Veterans Monument Committee and in particular two people, without whom this monument would have been an even longer time coming - Jim "Pint" Kline and his wife, Debbie. They have been there since the beginning and have devoted a significant part of the past two years raising the funds needed for this to materialize.
In closing, I would like to ask just two things of each individual here. First, if you see a veteran, thank him or her for their service. Second, and more importantly, visit our veterans of all generations that are in retirement homes, VA hospitals, or simply the neighbor down the street.
Thank you so much for attending today. God bless each one of you and your families. God bless our troops. God bless our Vietnam veterans. And God bless America.