Symposium leads up to Vietnam Memorial Plaza dedication

benw@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 16, 2014 

A day before the Vietnam Memorial Plaza is dedicated at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, veterans will gather to talk about valor and sacrifice Thursday during a half-day symposium.

The 1-5 p.m. gathering at the museum is among a list of events before Friday's dedication of the plaza featuring the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall, a replica of the original wall in Washington. The wall includes names of more than 58,000 men and women who died or were missing in action during the Vietnam War and it will be displayed on the nearly two-acre site for the next five years.

Retired Lt. Gen. Carmen Cavezza, chairman of the National Infantry Foundation that manages the museum, said though the Vietnam War has been over for a long time, many people don't know much about it.

"They weren't around when we had it," said Cavezza, who served two Vietnam tours during the late 1960s. "It's sort of focusing on that war and the sacrifices that people made."

Although Vietnam was a controversial war, Cavezza said the foundation wanted to focus on soldiers who demonstrated valor and honorably served their country.

"It wasn't a popular war," he said.

The symposium, titled "Vietnam: Valor and Sacrifice," and dinner will feature four Vietnam Medal of Honor recipients, four former Vietnam prisoners of war and other guest speakers.

Joseph Galloway, an embedded reporter at Landing Zone X-Ray during the battle of Ia Drang Valley in 1965, is the guest speaker for the 7 p.m. dinner after the symposium. He retired in 2010 as a columnist for McClatchy Newspapers, which owns the Ledger-Enquirer.

Galloway, who co-authored the book "We Were Soldiers Once...And Young" with retired Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore, said valor and sacrifice are part of war.

"Those things are always present anytime American soldiers go to war, whether the politicians can give you a cogent reason for going to war," he said. "Sometimes, it doesn't even matter. Troops, they can fight and die for each other and they do. It doesn't detract from their valor and their honor in the least."

With 50 years of reporting experience and serving as a war correspondent, Galloway said he often talks to veterans groups and active-duty military about their service.

"With veterans, I just thank them for their service," said Galloway, who now lives in Concord, N.C. "A lot of them came home and had to duck and hide so I tell them to be proud of your service. You did what your country asked even if they decided they didn't like what you did."

Cyndy Cerbin, director of communications for the National Infantry Foundation, said at least 250 are expected for the symposium and 2,000 for the memorial dedication.

Cavezza said the foundation plans to hold similar events every year to focus on a different war.

"The thought now is that we can do this every year with a different war, a different time in history," he said. "We want to kind of title them valor and honor. We want to do those annually. This is our test to see how it goes."

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

A series of events will be held at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center as part of the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Plaza featuring the Dignity Memorial Vietnam Wall.

• “Vietnam: Valor and Sacrifice” Symposium: Thursday beginning at 1 p.m. and ending with dinner at 7 p.m. Events include a “Valor” panel featuring four Medal of Honor recipients (retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, Col. Jack Jacobs, Col. Joe Marm and Col. Gordon Roberts) and a “Sacrifice” panel including prisoners of war from each branch of service (retired Adm. Robert Shumaker, U.S. Navy; Col. Hal Kushner, U.S. Army; Lt. Col. Orson Swindle, U.S. Marine Corps; and Lt. Col. Ron Mastin, U.S. Air Force). Dinner speaker is Joseph Galloway, war correspondent and co-author of “We Were Soldiers Once...and Young.” To order tickets, go to www.nationalinfantrymuseum.org.

• Dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Plaza: Friday following 10 a.m. infantry graduation on parade field. Speaker is retired Col. Jack Jacobs, a Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient. He will be introduced by Gen. Barry McCaffrey. Vietnam veterans encouraged to attend.

• “Brothers of War” screening: Free screening of National Geographic documentary at 4 p.m. Saturday in the IMAX theater. Seats limited so arrive early.

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