George Rippee, American Legion Post #82 Commander, received his pin as well as pins for several veterans not in attendance.

OKANOGAN - Sixty-five Vietnam veterans were honored by Congressman Dan Newhouse Thursday, Aug. 22, at a pinning ceremony at Okanogan’s American Legion Post No. 56.

The ceremony is part of an ongoing national program recognizing veterans on the 50-year anniversary of the war. Veterans receive a service lapel pin and a certificate of special congressional recognition in honor of their service and sacrifice during the Vietnam War.

“I was 13 years old in 1968, so I didn’t serve in the war but I saw first-hand many friends and relatives go and most, but not all, come back from Vietnam,” Newhouse said. “Not all of those returning got the heroes welcome they deserved. Here, 50 years later, we are finally making an effort to rectify that.”

Newhouse said when he heard of the commemoration ceremonies being planned, he was “all on board” to make sure the honor was brought to veterans in Eastern Washington.

“We vow to never again confuse personal disapproval of war with prejudice against those who honorably wear the uniform of our Armed Forces,” stated President Donald Trump about the program. “With conviction, our Nation pledges our enduring respect, our continuing care, and our everlasting commitment to all Vietnam veterans.

“A lot of attitudes, perspectives and opinions have changed over the years,” Newhouse said. “I travel by plane a lot, and I’ve been on Honor Flights with veterans. I see them arrive at the airport, and when the veterans come in, many in wheelchairs, almost to a person people in the airport will stop and salute or hold their hands over their hearts as they walk by. They know we as a nation can never repay them for what they’ve done.”

Newhouse said he was truly honored, from the bottom of his heart, to be there to present the veterans with “this small emblem of our gratitude.”

“This may be just a small piece of metal and a thin piece of paper, but they represent what I believe is the gratitude of a truly thankful nation,” said Newhouse.

“I have had a number of medals pinned on me in my day,” said Col. Michael Brazelton, a retired member of the USAF and former Vietnam War POW who has received four Silver Stars. “Even though it might just be a lapel pin to a lot of people, this is like a medal to the Vietnam veterans.”

Every living veteran who served at any time on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, regardless of location, during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975 is eligible to receive one of the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pins. Several veterans, some deceased, had a family member or friend present at the ceremony to receive the pin.

This was the third pinning ceremony in the Fourth District Newhouse presided over. A ceremony in Selah coinciding with the 50th reunion of Vietnam Veterans who served in the Army’s 737 Transportation Company honored 55 veterans, and a ceremony in Moses Lake honored around 45. Another ceremony is scheduled in Sunnyside Nov. 9.

“There may be more out there, and we don’t want to leave anyone out,” Newhouse said.

Veterans wanting to sign up for the program can register online or contact Britten Hershberger at 509-452-3243.

Newhouse also wished the post “happy birthday” on their 100-year-anniversary, congratulating them on “a long and successful history.”

Post Commander and Veterans Service Officer Eric Fritts thanked the Vietnam veterans, in particular Dale White and Michael Stewart of Tonasket, who trained Fritts in how best to serve area veterans. Stewart and White were also instrumental in bringing the first VA clinic to Okanogan County.

“Their motivation has allowed over 900 veterans in Okanogan County to receive over $3.5 million in benefits over the last three years,” said Fritts, who serves veterans at the U.S. Armed Forces Legacy in Tonasket, as well as Post No. 56  in Okanogan.

Fritts also spoke of the Legion Act signed into law by President Donald Trump which recognizes eligibility of all honorably discharged veterans to become American Legion members, not just war time veterans.

For more photos of the pinning ceremony, see the Sept. 7 edition of The Chronicle.

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