Imagine what it would be like to fly in a plane low to the ground while looking for differences in the landscape... to track the movement of Viet-Kong forces. Friday, one Vietnam War Veteran not only shared his experience serving his country but thanked the men and women who proudly served, and are serving, theirs as well.
"From sea to shining sea!"
Voices of the Singing Legionnaires filled the auditorium at Lincoln High School honoring those who served while fighting for America and those who are currently serving.
All veterans were shown appreciation today not only in the Lincoln High School auditorium but across the state and the nation. However, the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, who put on the program, had special focus on Vietnam, as part of the United States Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration. Not only did the program highlight those who did serve and were present but also the men and women who were missing in action or became prisoners of war for years after the fight. Those who were not there were honored with a POW/MIA Table, a rose to remind those in attendance of their loved ones, a lemon to symbolize their bitter fate as well as other objects to symbolize frailty of a prisoner of war or one missing in action.
Key note speaker and Vietnam Veteran himself, Bishop Paul J. Swain recounts his first day in Vietnam decades ago... flying in with fire all around him.
"Excited in a way, it was a new experience. Certain idealism about it all but also fear, uncertainty... loneliness even."
Tasked with collecting intelligence, he remembers what it was like flying in a plane that was barely off the ground. The goal was to, with the help of a camera, spot differences in the landscape.
"That movement on the ground could be noticed, simply by disruption of the trees and grasses where people walked," explained Bishop Swain, a Vietnam War Veteran as well as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls. "Photos would be taken which would then be compared to from the previous days to see where there was movement." While that disruptions could have been caused by wild animals moving, Bishop Paul J. Swain says those disruptions could have been caused by enemy forces which they were hoping to stay ahead of.
Bishop Swain served in southern Vietnam, near the Mekong River, calling it the "Delta". Friday, while giving his speech, he remembered his fellow men and women who served alongside him... some of which weren't able to come home.
"Many of them served much more difficult assignments than I did," Bishop Swain said, "so you look at them and say thank you for your service, we're free because of people like you and I'm proud to be one of you."
Those who served in Vietnam at today's ceremony were also given a special token in honor of their service as well as a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war.