Just the Facts

Veterans mark end of Vietnam War

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Christopher Hedden

The Vietnam War involved close to three million American soldiers. Macon County is home to some of those soldiers, now veterans of the long war. 

On March 29, Vietnam War Veterans America (VVA) Chapter 994 and their families gathered at American Legion Post 108 in Franklin for a time of reflection and comradeship. Historically, March 29, 1973, marks the day the last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam, making the day fitting to commemorate those who served. Macon County Commissioner and Vietnam Veteran Gary Shields welcomed attendees into a respectful and pristine hall to participate in an intimate and honorable service.

VETERANS AND public officials salute during the playing of “Taps” during a recent Vietnam War Veterans America Chapter 994 commemoration event held at American Legion Post 108 in Franklin.

Chapter 994 Chaplain Dale Cannon began the service with a prayer of gratitude. Following a faithful pledge of allegiance, elected officials N.C. Senator Kevin Corbin, N.C. House Representative Karl Gillespie, Town of Franklin Mayor Jack Horton, and Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor offered a brief sentiment of respect and gratitude to Chapter 994 and their families. 

“When Mr. James (VVA Chapter 944 President Tom James) asked me if I would mind coming today, I told him it would be an honor to be there,” said Gillespie.

Missing Man Table

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 81,000 service members remain missing after serving in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts involving the United States. In every American Legion facility is a table draped in white cloth with several symbolic items atop its surface. The table sits vacant, symbolically awaiting service members to be reunited with their families and friends.

FRANKLIN HIGH School Senior Anna Rose Warman sang the National Anthem a capella and other songs during an event honoring Vietnam War veterans.

Music was provided a capella throughout the ceremony by Franklin High School Senior Anna Rose Warman. Patriotic songs, such as the “National Anthem,” “God Bless America,” and “God Bless the USA” poured from the legion’s speakers with attendees singing along with a capella acclamation.

Departed Chapter 994 members’ names were read aloud, with a bell chime initiated after each one, reminding family, friends, and fellow comrades of a life that was resounding. In total, 59 fallen VVA members were recognized and honored. 

A special remembrance was given for Lieutenant Colonel Grace Phyllis Johnson of Franklin, who died last June at the age of 82. Lt. Col. Johnson was a career nurse, working in multiple veteran hospitals across the country. She served 25 years as a nurse in the U.S. Army Nurse Corporation, completing many tours and assignments in Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Grenada, and Iran, as well as stateside assignments. 

James described Lt. Col. Johnson as “one hell of a woman.”

After the remembrances and bell chimes, two-tour Vietnam veterans Charlie Ward and Mickey Stockton placed two wreaths to honor chapter members who have passed. Ward served in the Navy Seabees as a second-generation soldier; the Navy Seabees conduct construction projects in conflicts and in military bases. Stockton, who served in the Army as an infantry soldier, said of fellow veterans, “You become really close with the guys you dodged bullets with.” 

The Vietnam War Veterans America Chapter 994 service closed with salutes and the solemn sound of a trumpet playing “Taps.”