Springfield veterans gather for Vietnam Day of Remembrance

Purple Heart recipient: ‘I always feel good in a crowd of Vietnam veterans’

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Wednesday, March 29, will mark the 50th anniversary of the last U.S. troops that left Vietnam, ending combat operations in that country. That date is celebrated each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Saturday morning saw Springfield recognizing its living and deceased veterans with its traditional Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Grimes-Kohl VFW Post 1031, with guest speakers, tributes and memories.

As the Vietnam War was divisive, many of its U.S. veterans came home not to parades or appreciation but indifference or even hostility. That’s why ceremonies such as this mean a lot.

“Every year, I always feel good in a crowd of Vietnam veterans,” local Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Randy Ark said.

>> PHOTOS: Springfield’s veterans turn out for Vietnam Day of Remembrance

The event keynote speaker was Crystal Baker, assistant director of Clark County Veterans Service Commission office, who shared that 136 Clark County veterans received $143,000 in benefits in 2022 through their efforts.

Baker said that their office is too often a well-kept secret, which she wants to change through more advertising and word of mouth.

“It’s important for every veteran to see us,” she said. “We’ve had a lot who didn’t know we were here and others who think there are others worse off who should get our services. We’re for all veterans.”

Baker shared the recent experience of a veteran who suffered from hearing loss, and his benefits covered the entire cost, which made him incredibly grateful.

“It’s things like that that cuts at my heartstrings and makes us want to continue,” she said.

A recent emphasis has been on needs of homeless veterans. Baker said there are four types of claims for veterans, and they need to have lived in Clark County for at least 90 days to receive service, but the office also can help veterans from other areas.

The Clark County Veterans office is located in 120 S. Center St. in the same building as the Heritage Center of Clark County.

Betsy Van Hoose, who coordinates one of two National Wreaths Across America Day ceremonies honoring deceased veterans each December by placing wreaths on their graves, updated the attendees on its efforts. She also gave attending veterans a Vietnam Veteran lapel pin.

“Veterans hold a special place in my heart,” she said.

The ceremony wrapped up with the recognition of each service branch, 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps” by members of the H. Eugene “Doak” Walker #963 Marine Corps League Detachment.

While veterans are the focus, families and those who support them are just as much a part of the event. Mike Stooksberry has done the sound for the event since it began as an outdoor program in Veterans Park.

His dad and brother served in the military, and while he never served as the draft had ended by the time he was of age and pursued his interest in electronics, Stooksberry has always felt compelled to give back after running into another veteran who told him of the event during a school band event.

He teared up recalling a veteran friend of his brother’s scooping up the young Stooksberry and running around the bases with him during a baseball game. It’s things like that that have him back after time, even when the outdoor events were in rain and snow.

“I want to give back to the veterans and then some,” Stooksberry said.

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