The Ocean View Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7234 will be hosting a 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War on Saturday, May 9. Beginning at noon, a ceremony, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America Delaware, will be held in order to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War.
“This is important to us to remember and commemorate the men and women that died over there. It’s the 50th anniversary of us going in to Vietnam. That’s bittersweet sometimes, depending on who you talk to,” said Bob Corsa, service officer for the post, as well as the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 1105. Corsa is co-chairing the event, along with Post Commander Fulton Loppatto.
The ceremony will honor personnel who were held as prisoners-of-war (POWs), or listed as missing-in-action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States, and to thank and honor the families of those veterans.
“What we’re going to do is recognize the 122 soldiers from Delaware that died in Vietnam,” said Loppatto. “I do have two Gold Star sisters coming. They’re the sisters of soldiers who died. The important thing about this is to recognize the spouses and the families at home,” he added.
At the commemoration, there will be a presentation of colors, playing of the national anthem, a wreath-laying ceremony and a picnic following the ceremony. Loppatto said the event will be a “welcome home and thank you” to those who served in the Vietnam War.
“It’s a long overdue welcome home, because nobody was really welcomed home,” he said.
Loppatto said numerous dignitaries are expected to attend the event, including Delaware National Guard Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala.
“Sen. Tom Carper, who is a Vietnam veteran will be our keynote speaker,” he added.
VFW Post 7234, which has 1,300 members — about 50 of whom are combat veterans — is a commemorative partner recognized by the Department of Defense to conduct a program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
“We’re reaching out and including all of the veteran organizations in the state — we’ll have Vietnam Veterans of America, the Delaware Commission, to include the American Legions, Korean War veterans,” said Loppatto.
“We’re really reaching a lot of people. The whole theme is ‘welcome home.’ It’s to honor and thank Vietnam veterans and their spouses and families. We will be giving carnations to all the spouses and female family members, and giving coins out to the Vietnam veterans.”
During the event, each attendee will be asked to sign a commemorative book, which will be added, with other items, to a time capsule, which will be opened at the 100th anniversary, in 50 years.
Additionally, veterans are being asked to bring any items that they would like to have added to the capsule to honor those who served in Vietnam.
Welcome posters made by students from the Indian River School District will be on display for all those in attendance.
Satellite parking will be available at James Farm Ecological Preserve and at the former Harris Teeter near Salt Pond, both located on Cedar Neck Road. Those with boats are welcome to anchor offshore at the Post.
Sponsors for the event include FedEx, Bethany Blues, Taste of Italy, Sysco, Utz, Pepsi of Salisbury, Md., Bethany Florist and VFW Post #7234 Ladies Auxiliary.
Corsa served in the U.S. Marine Corps from December 1964 to December 1968, with the Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment 4326.
“We operated out of the I-Corps quandary area up north, where a lot of the fighting went on,” he recalled. “It’s strange — as a Marine infantryman, my experience in Vietnam was much different from a lot of the fellas. You could’ve been a military policeman down in Saigon, and the duties were just completely different… Where I was, we were being shot at pretty much 24/7. In some of the other locations, that was not happening, but Saigon came under siege…
“It was a war where we didn’t know where the enemy was, or who the enemy was. It’s very similar today with Afghanistan and Iraq. You take away the jungle and give us sand. And the insurgents or the terrorists become guerilla fighters. War is a terrible thing. There’s no getting around it. Young men die for older men’s decisions.”
Loppatto served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He said that, when coming back home from serving, his greeting was very different from soldiers’ greetings today.
“When we all came back from Vietnam, there were no welcome-back parades,” he said. “Everyone knows it was a very controversial… It’s fine. We went on with our jobs. Most of us went on to our civilian jobs.
“When we came back, there weren’t any parades. When I came back, it was only my wife — who was my fiancée at the time — who welcomed me back… That was my welcoming committee. It wasn’t like World War II, where there were big parades.”
“I was 18 years old,” added Corsa, noting his age when he became a Marine. “I was a young man and believed wholeheartedly in what my country told me about communism. I grew up believing that we should end communism — it was a bad thing, and, in my opinion, is still a bad thing.”
Corsa said it’s important to recognize those who served and are serving to protect the freedoms of the country.
“It’s important to me. I didn’t receive the homecoming that many of the guys did receive, and it was terrible,” he said. “I hope the Vietnam veterans from Sussex County and their families come out to the event. I think it’s a wonderful event, so many years later, for us to even be remembering this and starting to deal with it, which a lot of fellas haven’t done.”
Corsa said he himself has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is something that many of his fellow soldiers didn’t know about when they came home.
“It’s not a bad word. I can say it now without being ashamed, and we can thank our brothers and sisters over in Iraq and Afghanistan for that… I realize today what I was dealing with… If I only knew then what I know now, I might’ve dealt with the whole thing differently.”
Corsa said all are welcome to attend the commemoration and thank the veterans for their service.
“I would like to say to all veterans — but Vietnam veterans in particular, ‘Welcome home.’ Please come out and join our patriotic ceremony out at the VFW in Ocean View,” said Corsa. “It should be a very, very pleasant event — a very memorable event.”
VFW Post #7234 is located at 29265 Marshy Hope Way in Ocean View. For more information, call (302) 539-9981 or visit www.vfw7234.com/vietnam.htm.