Vietnam Veterans Organization of Carbon County celebrated the 36th anniversary of the ending of the Vietnam War during a program held this week at the Shoemaker-Haydt American Legion Post 314, Lehighton.

Harry Wynn III, president of the organization, was the master of ceremonies.

Keynote speaker was Marvin J. Barry, Major General United States Air Force, retired.

"The Vietnam veteran had courage and dedication," said Barry. "We see that dedication in our veterans today."

Barry then took his audience back to a time when he was a young adult in the 60s and 70s.

"It was a period many refer to as our country's midlife crisis," he said. "There were protests. During those protests came a war. Many of us served in that war in Vietnam. We went because it was the right thing to do for us to serve our country when we were called. That wasn't always understood back home."

"Today we recognize that individuals can have a difference of opinion on whether the war is right or wrong, but due to the composure of the Vietnam veteran we have grown up and we can now recognize that those people served and served well." said Barry.

"We have now created a new set of veterans," he said. "The experience in Vietnam and the composure of the Vietnam veteran has changed that. We have become adults as a nation."

Also making comments were Lehighton Mayor Donald Rehrig, Floyd Brown, commander of the American Legion Post 314; Glenn Troutman, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 256; Randolph Rabenold, adjutant of the AMVETS Post 106; and Henry Desrosiers, director of Veterans Affairs for Carbon County.

Rehrig said, "I was part of the program last year where you dedicated the Vietnam Memorial monument in honor of the 12 men from Carbon County who died in action. 58,000 servicemen and women lost their lives in Vietnam, where veterans served honorably. We must never forget those veterans who chose to set aside their personal lives to serve."

Rehrig said wanted to thank Vietnam veterans. "You served in a war that deeply divided our nation," he said.

Brown said that he didn't want to see a war like Vietnam happen again.

Troutman said,"When you leave here tonight think about thanking our veterans for all they are doing."

Rabenold said that it was time to appreciate all of our veterans. "World War I was called the war to end all wars. World War II was called the Big One. The Korean War is called the forgotten war and to me, the Vietnam War was the unappreciated war.

Desrosiers said few were untouched by the Vietnam War, whether they served in it or watched it on television. "I am proud of my service during the Vietnam War. We did it under difficult circumstances and we did it well. Unfortunately many paid the ultimate sacrifice. Today we honor all our veterans, for their bravery, professionalism, sacrifices and dedication to our ideals. We stand together as veterans and friends."

Chuck Weber presented the names of the 12 Vietnam Veterans from Carbon County who paid the ultimate sacrifice. They are: Lansford, Anthony R. Giannangeli and William C. Whitehead Jr.; Lehighton, Ronald S.H. Christman, Leon D. Eckhart and Clyde R. Houser Jr.; Palmerton, Neal G. Bollinger and Clifford L. Sell; Parryville, Charles R. Jones; Summit Hill, George M. Bevich Jr.; and Weatherly, Edward N. Beers, Paul Hunter and Samuel O'Donnell.

The invocation was offered by James C. Evans, chaplain. Frank Strouse, Sgt. at arms, gave the salute to the colors and Wayne Wentz offered the pledge of allegiance. Brown and Richard Fink presented the POW/MIA Empty Chair Ceremony.

Vietnam Veterans Organization of Carbon County will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 6 at VFW Post 7134, Palmerton. The agenda will include nominations and election of officers for 2010-11. Plus the group will be voting on proposed changes to the by laws, which includes changing the name of the officers, such as changing president to commander, etc. New members will be accepted at this meeting and anyone interested may attend this meeting.

A special meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 3, at the American Legion Post 314, Lehighton. This meeting will prepare for the upcoming Vietnam War anniversary.

The next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5 at the American Legion Post 124, Lansford. At this program, the group will be commemorating the 46th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War.