Veterans who served in the Vietnam era– from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975– were honored at a ceremony at the Vinton War Memorial on March 29– National Vietnam Veterans Day.
The event was hosted by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Stonewall Jackson Chapter. Supporting partners for the regional event included the Town of Vinton, the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, Roanoke County, the Roanoke Valley Veterans Council, and the Salem VA Medical Center.
The program included a musical prelude by the 29th Division Band, remarks from guest speaker Brigadier General John Rose, presentation of Vietnam Veteran lapel pins to 18 local heroes, and a wreath-laying ceremony at the High Ground Monument.
US Army (Ret.) Colonel John Miller and Vinton Mayor Brad Grose welcomed veterans and their families.
Other distinguished guests in attendance included Representative Ben Cline, Virginia Delegates Chris Head and Joe McNamara, Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea, Phil North from the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, Salem Vice Mayor Jane Johnson, Salem VA Medical Center Director Rebecca Stackhouse, and Roanoke City Councilman Bill Bestpitch.
A color guard from the William Fleming High School Air Force JROTC opened the program followed by Floyd Boone performing the national anthem. Chaplain Seth McCormick from Carilion Clinic Hospice gave the invocation.
Mayor Grose, himself a Vietnam-era veteran, told the audience that veterans are very special to the Town of Vinton which built the Vinton War Memorial to honor veterans of World War II and then the High Ground Monument to honor all veterans. The High Ground was the result of a citizen-initiated project and has become an iconic symbol for the town.
The mayor thanked the Vietnam veterans present for their service and what they have done since they returned from the conflict in a world that has undergone many changes.
Colonel Miller introduced General Rose, a Vietnam veteran who currently serves in the Office of Commemorations in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Dr. Rose retired as a brigadier general after 30 years of service in the Air Defense Artillery.
His military assignments included directing a multi-national staff from 12 NATO nations to determine NATO post-Cold War defense requirements, commanding NATO Air Defense Artillery units at the brigade and battalion levels in Germany, serving as assistant professor of International Relations at West Point, and two tours in the Pentagon, Army DCSOPS. He also directed the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Germany for eight years.
Dr. Rose focused his remarks on his time of service in Vietnam and reminded those present of the conflict at home over the Vietnam War.
“Our country was on fire back then with tens of thousands demonstrating against the war,” said Dr. Rose. He was just 21 years old when he was sent to Vietnam as part of the 196th Infantry Brigade as a second lieutenant.
He explained why March 29 has been chosen as National Vietnam Veterans Day– that was the date that the last veteran prisoner of war left Hanoi and the last American combat forces left Vietnam.
“We vow never again to confuse personal disapproval of war with prejudice against those who honorably wear the uniform of our Armed Forces,” said President Donald Trump in issuing the proclamation in 2017 that established National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
The Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War began on Memorial Day 2012 and continues through Veterans Day 2025 by a proclamation from President Barack Obama who asked local, state, and federal governments to partner with private organizations and communities across America “to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced.”
Dr. Rose said that there are 6.4 million Vietnam veterans still living across the United States with 48 states holding National Vietnam War Veterans Day events to honor them on March 29.
Over 7,000 troops are still missing in a war with over 58,000 casualties honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D. C.; over 340,000 of those who served in that conflict are experiencing PTSD today.
“Vietnam veterans did not quit on themselves, their country, or their families,” said Dr. Rose.
He asked the veterans and others in attendance to never forget or allow their children and grandchildren to forget that very difficult time.
Rose, along with Mayor Grose, said that veterans returning from Vietnam received a very different welcome than military personnel returning from combat today. When they arrived back in the states, they were advised to “take off your uniform; you are not welcome in your uniform.”
Rose and the other distinguished guests presented Vietnam Veteran lapel [ins to 18 Vietnam veterans in attendance to recognize them for their service. The pins feature a message embossed on the back, “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”
Col. Miller noted that he has participated in the distribution of over 2,000 of the lapel pins in the years since commemoration ceremonies began in 2012.
“We greatly appreciate your service no matter how long it has taken for you to be recognized,” said Miller.
Names of the 61 Gold Star Casualties from the Roanoke area who perished in the Vietnam War and whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington were read aloud during the ceremony.
Mayor Grose honored Sergeant Ronald Henry Chittum, Lance Corporal Joseph Timothy Keesee, Specialist 4 Daniel R. Meador, and Corporal William F. Silver Jr., from Vinton.
Others from Roanoke City, Roanoke County, and Salem who were lost in the conflict included: Specialist Marshall Joseph Angell, 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Bruce Bowman, Lance Corporal Barry Wayne Brickey, Lance Corporal Iran Courtland Brown, Staff Sergeant John Alphonzo Brown, Corporal Joseph Whelton Brown III, Sergeant Luther William Burton, Private First Class Robert Jerome Carter, 2nd Lieutenant Paul Frederick Cobb, Corporal John Philip Craig, Specialist 4 Lloyd Douglas Doering, 1st Lieutenant Charles Robert Emory, Sergeant Billy Kennedy Evans, Jr., 1st Lieutenant John Fletcher Goodlett, Sergeant Henry Brian Grammar, Captain Lawrence Earl Hackley, Lance Corporal Robert Bryant Hamblett, Corporal Douglas Lee Harrison, Specialist 4 Clyde Russell Herman, 1st Lieutenant Vassar William Hurt III, Specialist 5 Calvin Johnson, Seaman Apprentice Donald Reginald Johnston, Staff Sergeant Randall Claiborne Knisely, Private First Class James Garfield Lawson, Sergeant John Tyler Logan, Specialist 4 Norman Lacy Long, Jr., Private First Class Douglas Oscar Looney, Lance Corporal Gary Alan Martin, Specialist 4 Dennis Mayon Mattox, Warrant Officer Robert Thomas McDaniel, Private First Class Charles Dennis McGinnes, Private First Class James R. McIlwee, Private Charles Hewett Millner, Corporal Paul Martin Reed, Private First Class Aubrey Archie Reid, Jr., Petty Officer 3rd Class Donald Reed Robertson, Sergeant John William Rucker, Lance Corporal Bruce Allan Saunders, 1st Lieutenant Donn Lafayette Sweet, Private First Class John R. Thornhill III, Corporal Harry Edward Underwood, Corporal Robert Dennis Ware, Sergeant Thomas L. Waterman, Sergeant Eddy Eugene White, Lance Corporal Roger Dale Williams, Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Max Willis, Sergeant Thurman Woody, Jr., Specialist 4 Johnny Wayne Wright, Private First Class Roger Dale Atkinson, Sergeant Donnie Jay Bragg, Specialist 4 Robert Mason Journell III, Specialist 4 Francis Sherman Oberson, Staff Sergeant Kester Ulrey, and 2nd Lieutenant William Winton Webb.
The program concluded with the laying of a wreath at the High Ground Monument with the Bedford Science and Technology Army JROTC from three Bedford County high schools.