Nam vets honored, remembered

Erin Schaller

Erin Schaller

One by one they trickled home. Disheartened and battle weary, Vietnam veterans received no welcome after more than 10 years of military struggle.

All that changed last weekend in Pierre. More than 30 years later, South Dakota’s Vietnam veterans received the ceremony they deserved so long ago.

The South Dakota Vietnam War Memorial Dedication, held Sept. 15-17, attracted more than 30,000 people. Along with veterans and citizens, SDSU students participated in the event.

Cadets from the SDSU ROTC placed flowers for each fallen soldier and marine from South Dakota along a traveling wall with names of fallen heroes.

“I’m so honored to be able to give our veterans the thanks they deserve,” said Sgt. Darrin Eichacker, a senior engineering major and one of 20 cadets chosen to attend.

The SDSU Pride of the Dakotas marching band performed at the parade and during the ceremony.

“It’s always an honor to be asked to play for an event such as this,” said Tracy Miller, a member of the Pride.

“The Pride was asked to play because of the highly recognized and respected band directors the school is honored to have. I feel the band had no problem playing up to the standard of the event, and we all realized how important it was,” said Miller, a sociology sophomore.

The event included a traveling quilt dedicated to Agent Orange victims, a car show, a parade, fireworks and live concerts from bands, including Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Steve Miller Band and the Beach Boys.

During the ceremony, country music group Big & Rich performed their song “8th of November,” based on the story of South Dakota Vietnam veteran Niles Harris.

“We owe this to our veterans. They had no recognition of a job well done and they deserve to be recognized. They need to know they didn’t die for nothing,” said Senior airman Josh Boomgarden of the U.S. Air Force and freshman broadcast journalism major.

The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial wars in the United States history and possibly the most unpopular. It was the first war brought to the American public by televised news.

#1.884325:4006288938.jpg:vietnam.jpg:Jay Kleinjan honors the fallen of the Vietnam War at the traveling memorial’s stop in Pierre.:Lacey Roland