By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor
Local veterans who served during the Vietnam War era were honored for their service. Each veteran received the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin and the thanks of a grateful nation.
Willard City Manager Jim Ludban was the guest speaker. He spoke, however, about the veterans and service to this country during numerous wars and conflicts.
Ludban talked about the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, Korea and wars that involved the world, including the Persian Gulf and the war on terrorism. All, he noted, were fought to preserve and protect freedom.
“There are less than 40,000 World War II veterans living in the State of Ohio,” he said. “These soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen are nearly gone. We need to recognize and salute them.”
Ludban recalled SSgt. Dale Williams of Attica. He was in his second tour with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam.
“Those who served with him talked about how he was on a mission,” Ludban said. “How it seemed predestined that he didn’t believe he was coming back.
“He acted as their mentor and their guard and a protector,” he noted. “In June of 1970, he was killed in a firefight.”
Ludban said he talked with Williams’ father and honoring the young soldier for the man he was and for his service to this country.
“I looked at his headstone in the Omar cemetery,” Ludban recalled. “And on that stone was inscribed, ‘Unto us came a boy. Much too soon he became a man. He did this today for our tomorrow.’ That is a father’s appreciation of his son.”
Ludban talked about SSgt Andrew Brassfield.
“In April of 1970, in a country we didn’t belong in, in Laos, went missing,” he said. “He’s still missing. He’s presumed dead.”
There are more than 1,000 in-country war veterans who are still missing and unaccounted for in Vietnam, Ludban pointed out.
“We are the United States of America,” he stated. “We are the most technologically oriented country in the world, and it is time for us to bring the rest of them home. We have the means to identify them. It’s time to bring them home.”
A Catholic chaplain saved the life of a World War II and Korean veteran. When the soldier was captured, he suffered severe injuries. The priest picked the soldier up and carried him to the prison camp.
“The soldier said, ‘Father leave me,’” Ludban recalled. “And the priest said, ‘If I do that son, I’ll shoot you.’”
The Catholic chaplain carried the soldier all the way to the prison camp, Ludban said.
“The priest had lots of opportunities to escape like some of the other prisoners did,” he explained. “But he stayed and ministered. And he gave aid and comfort to others that faced captivity.”
The chaplain died in the prison camp, according to Ludban. His duty earned him the Medal of Honor.
“So many of these defenders of freedom so young like Dale Williams, and Andy and my cousin, Glenn Ludban, died way too young,” he said. “Most were 25 or younger. They had their whole lives ahead of them. And they left parents and friends to grieve for their lost sons and daughters.”
Less than 10-percent of the citizens of the United States, Ludban pointed out, have earned the title of military veteran. In WWII, it was closer to 12-percent.
Ludban said he gets annoyed sometimes when he hears veterans confront other veterans and tell them because they belonged to a guard or reserve unit, and because they were not called up, they are not veterans.
“Maybe not to the VA (Veterans Administration) they’re not considered veterans,” Ludban pointed out. “But I’ve got news for you. There’s a reason we say all gave some and some gave all.”
He cited the lack of care for those who have served in the military.
“One in four homeless people are veterans,” Ludban pointed out. “We’ve done a good job. There’s been a lot of attention, and we’ve made progress, and we moved that number back from the two-thirds it was a few years ago.
“But there are still 50,000 homeless veterans,” he said. “Most of those veterans were honorably discharged. More than half served in Vietnam.”
Ludban said it is past the time for lawmakers to act on legislation helping veterans.
“All of us were touched by that war,” he pointed out. “The Vietnam War is the only war which we never had a real plan to win.”