As the 50th anniversary of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War looms, a local service organization wants to honor the country’s 58,000 fallen soldiers — including nine of its own.
The local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a nonprofit group of women who work to promote historic perservation, education and patriotism, have set up a display to pay homage to the sacrifices these men and women made for their country.
They are a small fraction of the thousands of individuals and civic organizations nationwide, and growing, that are partnering with the Secretary of Defense to commemorate the war’s anniversary next year.
According to a U.S. Department of Defense news article, “The goal is to get more than 10,000 corporations, civic groups as well as government and community organizations to join as partners and help sponsor hometown events to honor Vietnam veterans, their families and those who were prisoners of war and missing in action.”
“It’s pretty cool that they’re stepping up to the plate and acknowledging it,” said Wendy Malone, regent of the Del Norte chapter of DAR. She was only 7 when the war ended, but she shares the sentiments of many Americans of her generation who felt the returning soldiers were less than welcomed home.
“When we came back it was terrible,” she said, referring to the servicemen and women. “You didn’t tell anyone you went.”
The local men who lost their lives, including two brothers, are James H. Whisenhunt, Donald Shanks, Robert G. Owen, John R. Klotz, Paul O. Klotz, Howard Cramblet, Leonard Greville, Richard K. Wells and Gene A. Mitchell.
Paul Klotz and Gene Mitchell were severely injured while in Vietnam and died from their injuries while they were in the hospital, according to Wendy.
“The Klotz brothers were killed 18 months apart from one another,” she said. “James Whisenhunt was a local police officer when he went in. He was killed while saving several other soldiers in Ka Sahn and was awarded the silver star. The City Council named May 15 as Jim Whisenhunt Day in Crescent City.”
Through April 5, the old Daly’s building at Third and J streets will house a window display with the names and photos of the local men, information about them and the medals they earned, as well as a poster of a proclamation acknowledging the war signed by President Barack Obama, an array of flags and even a serviceman’s uniform. From 6 to 9 each night, the display will be illuminated.
“It’s a little late in coming but we want to thank them for their service,” Wendy said. “We treated them like crap and that’s sad.”
But there is a silver lining.
“The thing is our soldiers now are benefitting from what our Vietnam soldiers went through,” she said. “At least we are backing our soldiers now. Those veterans are the parents and grandparents of those who are fighting now.”
To learn more about DAR, go to www.dar.org or check out the local chapter’s Facebook page. The local chapter currently has 23 members and five prospective members. They meet the third Saturday of the month. Wendy said the organization is not political, but very historical- and educational-minded.
“We’re very patriotic and we have a great group,” she said. “We want to get our community more involved and educate our young people. We’re trying to make a difference in our community.”
Debi White, north district manager for the Redwood Parks Association, wants to let her fellow Del Norters in on a little tip.
She learned recently that if you use a Fred Meyer Rewards Card when you shop at any of its stores, you could help a nonprofit organization earn a quarterly donation from Fred Meyer, as part of its “Community Rewards” program.
After reading that the program only applied to nonprofits in Alaska, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, Debi decided to inquire about extending the offer to Del Norte County.
“I wrote a letter to them,” said Debi, “and said that we’re just across the Oregon border and that lots of people shop there and could they make an exception.”
They were happy to oblige.
Even though Debi would love people to designate Redwood Parks Association as their chosen benefactor, she also encourages other organizations to get signed up.
“I want to get the word out,” Debi says. “It’s an easy way for people to donate and give back to their community. Every time you shop you’re helping them.”
Organizations that wish to sign up — as well as shoppers who want to link their Rewards Card to a particular nonprofit, can go to www.fredmeyer.com/communityrewards. And if you don’t have a Rewards Card, it’s easy to acquire one by visiting the customer service desk in the store.