Darren Doyle, story, photos, and video:
The Edmonson County National Vietnam War Veterans Day Ceremony was hosted at the Brownsville Community Center today by the Disabled American Veterans and Auxiliary Wand B. Doyle Chapter 32.
President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, which recognizes March 29th at National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
March 29 was chosen as National Vietnam War Veterans Day because on March 29, 1973, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) was disbanded and the last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam. The last unit was elements of MACV's Infantry Security Force (Special Guard), actually special couriers.*
Local and guest speakers addressed the crowd today, which included State Representative Michael Meredith and Edmonson County Judge Executive Wil Cannon; each giving thanks and honor to Vietnam Veterans. The ceremony was hosted by DAV Chapter 32 Commander Jack Hasty and it featured Debra Jefferies Reece, DAVA Chapter 20 Commander in Glasgow. Reece also recognized local Chapter 32 DAVA Commander Maurita Miller for her continued work in honoring and helping veterans.
Today's special guest speaker was Mike Stoyonovich, Army First SGT. Ret., and DAV #32 Adjutant, as well as Kentucky State DAV Jr. Vice Commander and Executive Committee member.
Sgt. Stoyonovich shared several personal experiences of his own from the Vietnam war, including when he first arrived in Vietnam on January 11, 1968 on a commercial jet; however, as the plane started to land, it began taking fire and had to quickly acsend.
"The landing wheels went down on the jet and we were close to landing and all of the sudden, we started taking fire from the jungle adjacent to the Bien Hoa Air Base," he said.
Stoyonovich said that after about ten more minutes of flying, they saw four American gun ships out their window as they unloaded in the jungle area from where the gunfire came.
"There was a big ball of smoke in the jungle, and needless to say at that point, we didn't receive anymore small arms fire. We were able to land safely on the tarmac."
He also described other experiences; one specifically where he somehow escaped gunfire all around him, inexplicably. He said a fellow soldier told him that it must have been God watching over him and that Stoyonovich would surely have a purpose later in life.
"So that night, I got down on my knees and gave my life to Jesus Christ, because there's no it could've been any other explanation except from an intervention from the Lord."
He said that helping local veterans and their families now as member of the DAV is part of that purpose.
Penny Saltsman, DAVA #32 Adjutant recognized all Vietnam Veterans that were present and each received honorary pins commemorating their service. Jack Hasty, Mike Stoyonovich, and Ronnie Stewart then called names of local Vietnam veterans that were killed in action as the bell was tolled for each name.
The ceremony concluded with the presenting of the honorary wreath by veteran Johnny Russell as Boy Scout Troop 597 presented the colors for both the start and conclusion of the program. The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute by VFW Post 6937 members and the playing of "Taps" by veteran Bennie Durbin.
Judge Wil Cannon said he was honored to not only attend the ceremony but also sit as a guest speaker.
"I think you have the most patriotic county in the whole United States right here," he said. "It's important we do this because when our veterans came home from Vietnam, they were looked down upon, they were spit on, cussed, mistreated in all sorts of ways. This is a way that we can let them know we appreciate them, and they're not forgotten."
Mike Stoyonovich said he was proud of the turnout from today's ceremony and thanked all the local volunteers who made today possible.
"I don't have the words to express how I feel as a Vietnam veteran and a veteran that sees all my brothers and sisters here today," he said. "Since President Trump designated March 29th for Vietnam Veterans Day, I think a lot of veterans organizations will make sure these ceremonies take place. I know the Disabled American Veterans is having them all across the state today."
Special thanks for today's program include: Madison's Flowers for the wreath, Lebanon National Cemetery and Nathan and Shelly Carroll for providing handouts and Vietnam Veteran lapel pins, Chad Russell for refreshments, Ronnie Stewart, DAV #32 member for sound and video slideshow, and DAV and Auxiliary and VFW members for additional assistance.