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"We Answered The Call Of Our Country"

American Legion Post 111 in Shrewsbury takes part in national program to honor Vietnam veterans with lapel pins

Steve Dodson (left), a Vietnam-era veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1968, receives a commemorative lapel pin from Mike LeBlanc, American Legion 10th District Commander. photo by Diana Linsley.

November 10, 2017
American Legion Post 111 in Shrewsbury recently held a commemoration event honoring Vietnam veterans with lapel pins.

The event was part of a U.S. Department of Defense national program to commemorate the Vietnam War. The lapel pins are a symbol presented to all "U.S. military veterans who served during the Vietnam War period as a lasting memento of the nation's thanks."

A large percentage of the American Legion's membership base are Vietnam veterans, so it made sense for the organization to partner with the Department of Defense to help commemorate the Vietnam War.

U.S. veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are eligible to receive the pin.

Michael LeBlanc, American Legion 10th District Commander in the St. Louis area, attended the event. He said families of veterans who have died were welcomed at the Shrewsbury commemoration and given a lapel pin in honor of their loved one's service.

"We want all veterans who served during the Vietnam War era and their families to understand that we should all be proud of our service, and that we all served honorably, and we answered the call of our country," said LeBlanc, a Vietnam veteran who served with the U.S. Navy from 1970 to 1974.

Lapel pins were presented to all U.S. military veterans who served during the Vietnam War period as "a lasting memento of the nation's thanks."

LeBlanc explained that the Vietnam War happened during "troubled times" in the United States. Soldiers returned home to a public that was not so appreciative of their service to the country.

"What we are really trying to get across is your country called, we served honorably, and we fulfilled our commitment," LeBlanc said. "We want everybody to have the recognition that the DOD saw fit to develop."

Rich Scahill, a resident of Shrewsbury, served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 with the U.S. Army in the 459th Signal Battalion. He has been a member of the American Legion Post 111 in Shrewsbury for 27 years.

Scahill's wife, Jeanine, is a Vietnam era veteran. She has also been a member of the Shrewsbury post for 27 years. After Scahill returned from Vietnam he was stationed at Ent Airforce Base, where he met Jeanine.

Scahill said LeBlanc's words during the event drew a few tears, and that the ceremony was a nice gesture for the veterans. He said he now receives recognition when out in public.

"People walk up to me, with my hat on or something (showing I'm a Vietnam veteran), and thank me for my service," Scahill said. "That means a lot I think to people, at least to me."

The Scahills say they enjoy participating in Veteran's Day programs held at their grandchildren's schools.

Rich Scahill, a resident of Shrewsbury, served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 with the U.S. Army in the 459th Signal Battalion. photo by Diana Linsley.

"The kids all line up in the hall and when you walk through there and they all are shaking your hand and clapping well, it makes you feel good," Scahill said.

Steve Dodson, a resident of Oakville, is a Vietnam era veteran who served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1968 in the 555th Signal Group. He has been a member of the American Legion Shrewsbury Post 111 for more than three years and is the post vice-commander.

Speaking about the ceremony and recognition, Dodson said, "It's a good feeling. It's kind of like ... finally."

Dodson said the DOD lapel pins and ceremonies help to recognize Vietnam veterans who never received the appreciation for their service the way other era's veterans have. He explained that when World War II ended everyone was a hero — ticker-tape parades held to welcome the veterans home. In contrast, Vietnam veterans returning home at times received ridicule.

Dodson said attitudes have changed.

"It feels kind of strange because we didn't get the recognition for many years and now it seems like everybody is recognizing us and thanking the veterans. It's kind of nice," he said.

Dodson said the changing attitudes about Vietnam veterans has helped him feel better about his service.

Jim Christman, past commander of American Legion District 10, with a flag commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. photo by Diana Linsley.

"As I get older and more mature, I feel better about my service and proud that I was able to serve my country," Dodson said. "I don't have any hard feelings against anybody. I just think it's nice to be recognized and to be able to put those bad feelings behind me. Harboring those feelings doesn't do anybody any good."

Dodson said there were about 25 lapel pins given out at the Shrewsbury ceremony.

LeBlanc said people need to understand that Vietnam veterans still "suffer the ravages of war" in terms of their physical conditions related to Agent Orange and other chemicals used during the war.

"Visit the DOD's 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War website and say 'thank you' for your service, it is very appreciated," LeBlanc said. "But I would say go one step further and call your local congressmen and senators and tell them to do more to help Vietnam veterans and all veterans."

For more information, visit the DOD's Vietnam War 50th Anniversary website at www.vietnamwar50th.com/

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