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DAR Fort Prince George Chapter Honors Veterans
Vietnam Veterans Receive Long Overdue Recognition for Their Service to Our Country
By Karen Brewer

Photograph by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Rev. Marion Mitchell of Easley receives a Vietnam veteran lapel pin and a certificate "in recognition of valor, service, and sacrifice during the Vietnam War" from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Fort Prince George Chapter of Easley, South Carolina. Renee Castor of the Fort Prince George Chapter presents the certificate and pin to Rev. Mitchell, as his wife, Betty, looks on. Many local Vietnam era veterans (who served on active duty from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975) were presented the certificate and pin in a special ceremony to honor them for their service to our country.

The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Fort Prince George Chapter, in Easley, South Carolina, honored all veterans, with a particular emphasis on Vietnam veterans, in a special ceremony prior to Veterans Day, 2017.

The ceremony began as Regent Anne Kilpatrick requested everyone to stand, and bagpiper Roger Kilpatrick played “When the Battle’s Over” as members of the Wren High School NJROTC posted the colors.

Fort Prince George Chapter Chaplain Carolyn Nations then delivered the invocation: “Would you pray with me. Father, we thank you for today, and we thank you for those who have served and are serving our country on foreign shores and here at home. We give you special thanks for American heroes who, from our beginning as a nation, have paid the supreme sacrifice. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for those to whom we owe so much. Help us to show our appreciation by loving our country, by supporting its Constitution, by obeying its laws, and by respecting its flag. As we gather today, may we not take our freedoms lightly. May we always be reminded of the men and women who have provided the very blanket of freedom under which we rest each night. We ask your blessing upon all who are present today, who have stood on the wall and kept watch. In your holy name I pray, Amen.”

Steve Ehrlich then posted the Prisoner of War (POW) flag as bagpiper Roger Kilpatrick played “Amazing Grace.”

Regent Anne Kilpatrick led everyone in The Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag, and then the Pickens Concert Choir led everyone in singing The National Anthem.

“I’d like to welcome you all here,” said Kilpatrick. “And first, I’d like to thank Mount Pisgah Baptist Church for allowing us to use their facilities for this ceremony. We are absolutely thrilled to see so many of you, and especially so many veterans.

“We have several DAR state and district officers whom we would like to introduce today. Harriet Nash is our State Corresponding Secretary. And our District 1 Director, Martha Dyar, is also here. And I think we have other regents, from Nathanael Greene, Nancy Nease. 

“I would like to especially thank Carolyn Nations. She is our Chaplain, she is our Vice Regent, and she is the one who made this all look pretty today. And today is her birthday.

“A special, special thank you goes out to Mildred Brewer. She ‘hunted down’ most of you veterans. She is our chair, and she gets a really big hand for being so tenacious and working twice as much as the rest of us. To all of the participants who volunteered, and this is a true volunteer event, I want to say thank you. Will the Fort Prince George Daughters please stand. This is our big event of the year.

“The Vietnam War Commemoration Presentation Partnership, as authorized by Congress on behalf of the nation, does what we should have done 50 years ago  - and that is to thank and honor all veterans, especially Vietnam veterans, and their families for their service and sacrifice, just as America did for the veterans of other foreign wars. The partnership program recognizes all who served on active duty in the Armed Forces from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location. The commemoration makes no distinction between veterans who served in country, in theater, or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period. All were called to serve. Across the nation, Americans are united to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families. Commemorative partners have helped communities publicly and individually thank over 1.4 million Vietnam veterans and their families during more than 9,000 ceremonies. More than 10,000 local, state, and national organizations partnered to assist the nation in honoring our 7 million living Vietnam veterans and the 9 million families of those who served. We are proud to be among those organizations wholeheartedly participating in this endeavor, and we salute you all.”

Hope Summers, National State Representative of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 523, and widow of Vietnam veteran Donald Summers, explained the Missing Man Table, which remembers and honors those members of the military who are missing in action. “Thank you for having me here,” she said. “Before us is set a table. Many of you may look at it and wonder. Let me, on behalf of Chapter 523 Vietnam Veterans of America, explain. The table before us has one place setting. It represents all five services, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard. The military is filled with symbolism. The table is one way of symbolizing those who are not yet accounted for and who are missing from our midst. Some call the people MIA, POW. We call them brothers and sisters. The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call. A single rose displayed in the vase is symbolic of their family, friends, and loved ones, who keep the faith waiting for them to return. The red ribbon, tied so predominantly on the vase, is reminiscent of a red ribbon worn upon the lapel of thousands who, to this day, bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting for our missing and for the return of all live POW’s and those left on foreign soil. The slice of lemon on the plate is to remind us of their bitter fate. There is salt on the plate, symbolic of the tears of those who wait for their return. The glass is inverted. They cannot toast with us this evening. The chair is empty. They are not here. Remember, all of you who served with them and called them friends and buddies, who depended upon their might and relied upon them. Remember, for they surely have not forgotten you. We have a flickering candle on the table. In the strange and terrifying ways of war, that which is thought to be good becomes dangerous, and so it is with light. In the darkness of the night, to shine a light to strike a match could give away position and invite terror of battle and sudden death. So, the warrior learns to live in the darkness. This does not mean, however, that the warrior forgets the light. No, the light becomes a dream. The flame of freedom and warmth of family and the bright welcome of home make up the warrior’s dream. For those who are missing or remain as prisoners in a foreign land, darkness is a companion…You know who they are and fought with them. Surely they yearn for light. Those of us here gathered have this gift, and so we must keep the flame lit. However, the flame is a delicate thing, easily extinguished, susceptible to breezes and in need of a constant source of fuel. Unless the lamp is tended, the flame is always in danger of dying. Will the flame die? I hope not. There are too many still there that we don’t know where they are. On behalf of our nation, whose call they answered, on behalf of chapter 523 Vietnam Veterans of America, we gather to dedicate ourselves once more to keep the flame alive, to be beacons waiting to welcome home those for whom there is yet no accounting. For this task, we need strength. From where it will come?”

“In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we will find strength,” said VVA Chaplain Peter Flink. “We will not forget. We will remember them. With the blowing of the wind and in the chill of the winter, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we will find strength. We will not forget them. We will remember them. In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. When we are weary and in need of strength, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. When we are lost and sick at heart, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. When we have joys and special celebrations we yearn to share, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. When we see our nation’s young marching behind our flag, and hear “Taps” played, we will find strength. We will not forget. We will remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are a part of us. And the flame will continue to burn until we can say to each other the words of compassion, and friendship, peace, and love: Welcome home.”

Anne Kilpatrick then introduced the event’s speaker, Patrick Ramsey, President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 523 (Foothills Chapter of South Carolina), and President of the South Carolina Vietnam Veterans of America State Council.  “He was born in Tennessee, graduated from high school, spent one year in tech college, and promptly joined the Marines. His tour in Vietnam lasted, as he says, 12 months and 20 days. In 1968, he ‘celebrated’ the new year in a foxhole with an M16 during the Tet Offensive. When Patrick returned home, he found work in the textile industry, and there he stayed for 40 years. He became a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America and has been their President for about 10 years, and President of the South Carolina VVA State Council for four years. He has two children, seven grandchildren, and four great grandchildren.”

Ramsey said that his message was going to “come straight from the heart.” He recalled that, when he came home from the war, he had to put his military experience behind him. “Employers don’t even want to know that you served. They would rather you left those years blank in your application. I was proud of what I did. That hurt, not being able to put it down. I did what they asked. I ended up working 40 years at the same place. I got married, had two good kids. One grandson will be joining the Marine Corps when he gets out of high school next year. One will be going into college next year.

“I joined the Marine Corps, because I knew I was going to get drafted. I spent one year at tech and learned that the course I was taking was not what I wanted, and I knew to change courses I had to drop out of the one I was in and reapply for another. Well, the instant I dropped out, I was immediately put in the draft.”

His mother had lost two brothers in World War II, he said, both of them Marines, and she was not happy with her son’s decision.

When he came home from Vietnam, he and his fellow Marines had flown to Japan and then Alaska before arriving at Travis Air Force Base in California. They had left the extreme heat of Vietnam. “We touched down in Anchorage, Alaska at 3:00 in the morning after a three-foot snowfall,” he said. “There were 119 young Marines on an air strip in Alaska, in short sleeves, having a snowball fight.”

He spoke of the reception he and his fellow veterans expected but did not receive when they returned home from war. “A lot of us came home, thinking that we were going to get the welcome home that all of the other service men did, and it just didn’t happen. And I spent 30 years trying to forget that I had ever been there.”

When he first came home, he did not want to be around Vietnamese, but he changed after developing a friendship with a Vietnamese co-worker. “He and I became friends, and we worked together until I retired. He’s gone now. He passed away. It took me years to realize they weren’t our enemy.”

He said that most members of the military did what they were supposed to do. “We did what we thought we had to do. We did what we were told.  Ninety eight percent of us did exactly what needed to be done, no more and no less. We didn’t create havoc. We did not disobey. We didn’t ‘go nuts’. We did what we had to do. Do I regret some of the things that went on over there? Sure, I do, but I wasn’t involved in any of it. There was nothing I could do about it. Do I regret what I did? No.”

He closed by saying that he was honored to be present for the ceremony and that he appreciated the ladies of the DAR.

Regent Kilpatrick presented Ramsey with a Vietnam veteran lapel pin. “On behalf of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the Fort Prince George Chapter, and the South Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution, I want to present this pin to Patrick Ramsey for his service to this country. And to thank you for coming to talk with us today, a small gift, compliments of the Reserve Officer Association (ROA).

She then asked for any non-Vietnam War era veterans present to stand, and, as each branch of service, Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard, was called, each veteran was given an American flag lapel pin. “Let’s give them all a round of applause, please,” she said.

Kilpatrick then introduced DAR Fort Prince George Chapter Recording Secretary Mildred Brewer. “She is the Chair for this event, and we can thank her for everybody being here today, because she worked so hard.”

“Thank you,” said Brewer. “I want to thank everyone for being here. Without you being here, it would not have happened.

“I would like to thank a couple of people who inspired me to get this started. Mrs. Lucille Childress, a member of our DAR Chapter, was the first one who gave me a name of someone who had gotten killed in Vietnam (Stanley Pettit). So, the Pettit family can thank Aunt Lucille and Uncle Ben. That gave me the initiative and the encouragement to look for other families of soldiers who had gotten killed. Also, I would like to thank Randall Wood of the Pickens American Legion Post. He directed me right to two different families (of soldiers killed in Vietnam). So, thank you, Randall, for giving me that assistance.

“We have located four Gold Star mothers, mothers of soldiers killed in Vietnam. Only one was going to make it today. The other three had complications, health issues, and were not able to be with us today. Mrs. Louree Clardy.  This is in memory of her son, James Donald Clardy. He was in the U.S. Army.”

Brewer had located family members of 12 U.S. servicemen from Pickens County who had died in Vietnam, and family members of those 12 servicemen were recognized and honored during the ceremony. Those 12 servicemen were: David Forrest Black, Woodrow ‘Woodie’ Beal Chastain, James D. Clardy, Dwight O’Neal Gilstrap, Mylon Ray Hopkins, James Donnie Howe, Charles Johnson (the first soldier from Pickens County killed in Vietnam), Ephriam Rutledge ‘Rut’ Liles II, John W. Massey, Stanley R. Pettit, David G. Smith, and Jerry H. Williams.

“On behalf of a grateful nation and the Department of Defense, we are proud to recognize and honor your loved ones and the family for the significant sacrifices that were made in the name of freedom and democracy over the years,” said Brewer. “Thank you for your example of grace, dignity, and courage. Our nation is forever indebted to you and sends its deepest respect and admiration. Thank you very much.”

“These are families of men whose names are on the Vietnam wall in Washingon,” said Kilpatrick. “And that’s why we thought it was very important for us to take time to recognize these families who are still living here in Pickens County. Mildred has done a wonderful job of ‘hunting’ them all down.”

Kilpatrick then introduced Sherry Harris, from the Pickens County Veterans Affairs Office. As Harris read each name of each Vietnam veteran present, the veteran stood, and a member of the DAR Fort Prince George Chapter walked to where the veteran was standing and presented him or her with a Vietnam veteran lapel pin and a certificate from the DAR honoring the veteran “in recognition of valor, service, and sacrifice during the Vietnam War.”

After all of the Vietnam veterans had received the pins and certificates, Kilpatrick asked them all to stand. “I hope this is not the last time that someone says thank you,” she said.

Then, all in attendance stood for the playing of “Taps” by Larry Orr.

The Pickens Concert Choir then sang “America the Beautiful.”

Peter Flink, Chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 523, gave the benediction. “Shall we pray. Our Father, as we consider the 241 years of blessing, the grace, and the mercy that has been shown to this nation, we pause and we say thank you for that grace and that mercy. And Father, as we remember those who have served, as we remember those who have paid the ultimate price, we would thank you, Father, for those who have been willing to serve. We would pray, Father, for those veterans who have never left behind the experiences of war. We would pray, Father, that those experiencing PTSD would receive your peace and your solace. We pray for the soldiers who are on active duty right now around the world. And, Lord, we ask that your hand of protection be upon them. Now, may the Lord of peace himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all. Amen.”

The Wren High School NJROTC then retired the colors, and bagpiper Roger Kilpatrick played “Green Hills of Tyrol.”

Below, view more than 130 photographs from the event.

Photographs by Karen Brewer, The Christian View magazine

Publisher's Note: If you are a veteran of the Vietnam war era, or if you know a Vietnam veteran, who served on active duty sometime between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, please
contact the Publisher, who will give the D.A.R. your contact information. Thank you for your service.