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Friday, 28 February 2014 10:38

A Voice For Veterans: Vietnam War Commemoration

By Jackie Kingsland | News
Setting aside political views and personal perspectives involving the Vietnam War era, let’s focus on those individuals for their service and sacrifice to our nation—leaving loved ones behind for a tumultuous unknown—and honor our Vietnam War veterans and their families as the 50th Anniversary to the war’s end approaches. Since decided upon by the Saratoga Springs City Council in the fall of 2013, to commemorate the ending of the Vietnam War, a committee was established with its goal to honor those veterans. In doing so, on Saturday, March 29 from 1-3 p.m., a Vietnam War commemoration will be held at the NYS Military Museum located at 61 Lake Avenue. This tribute is sponsored by the Capital District of New York Chapter (CDNY) of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA). It will incorporate a discussion from the Panel of Vietnam War Veterans, conveying their personal stories and experiences from theirs tour(s) in Vietnam and answering questions from the audience. There will also be a presentation to the NYS Military Museum. It will be the first time the Panel will be together as a group, as it was created solely for this March 29 event. It is one of many events the organization will be planning for the future (for further information regarding the Capital District of NY Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, visit www.ausacdny.com for details). Also highlighted is a Proclamation by Mayor Joanne Yepsen as well as the presentation of Jungle Warriors—Service and Sacrifice, a spectacular celebratory print offered to the Museum by artist and photographer, Jim Ryan, who is an executive with Media Solutions, Ratheon Technology Services Group. Mr. Ryan incidentally creates a painting each year capturing the very essence of our military fighting forces and has received numerous awards in recognition of his paintings. Nicholas M. Laiacona, President of the Northern NYS Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) and retired Lieutenant Colonel (LTC), with over 24 years of service in the U.S. Army, served from October 1968 to October 1969 as a First Lieutenant in Vietnam. Barry Hartman, who served 31 years in the U.S. Army and 14 years in the New York Guard, is a retired Brigadier General (BG) who also served his country with two tours in Vietnam (August 1967 to August 1968 and June 1972 to March 1973) and Vice President Retiree & Veterans Affairs of the Capital District of NY Chapter of the AUSA. The AUSA is a private, non-profit educational organization that meets monthly and supports all aspects and ranks of America’s Army—from active Army to National Guard and Reserves, to retired and wounded soldiers as well as their family members. This organization has 125 chapters throughout the United States, five in New York State, and there are 308 members within the Capital District of NY Chapter, consisting entirely of dedicated volunteers working tirelessly to provide recreation and educational opportunities to soldiers and their families. Another important factor of the organization is providing support to deployed soldiers as well as their family members who are left home, enduring the daily challenges from having a loved one overseas. The AUSA’s mission is straight forward and their vision and core values are equally as important, representing soldiers and families, from being their voice when lobbying in Congress to advocating support for these service members. Becoming the Premier voice of all components of America’s Army and fostering public support, LTC Nick Laiacona and BG Barry Hartman affirm harmoniously. LTC Laiacona recites, “The AUSA represents every American soldier by being the voice of all components of America’s Army, fostering public support of the Army’s role in national security, providing professional educational and information programs. Our main interest is supporting soldiers directly and their families.” BG Hartman agrees, “Yes, we are here for the families of those soldiers, too. Supporting the families is an important part of the AUSA.” This non-profit organization accomplishes its mission to its members and the community by fostering public support through the various chapters located within the state, as well as nationwide, by their Institute of Land Warfare, Industry Affairs meetings and events and through the Government Affairs Office. For example, a local fundraising event held at the Glens Falls Civic Center is being sponsored by the AUSA. On the evening on March 29, a Military Appreciation Night with a Gongshow hockey game between the Phantoms and the Springfield Falcons begins at 7 p.m. with giveaways throughout the entire game. For further information and cost for this specific event contact the Phantoms Office (518) 480-3355 or visit Phantomshockey.com. Turning back to the main event and panel discussion, March 29 is a date specific and intentional, reflective of Vietnam War Commemoration Day. It was that particular date in 1973 that the last U.S. Forces left the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). As one will recall in a very brief overview, Vietnam was a French colony. Vietnamese rebelled for independence, destroying occupying French forces. In 1962-63, the United States provided “military advisors” to oppose North Vietnam from imposing a communist system over that entire nation. It slowly developed into war and was fully engaged in 1965. Fighting continued until the Fall of Saigon in 1973. “I have many memories, some more vivid than others,” BG Hartman ruminates. “The salient memory for this event is that I was the last American to leave Hue (January 28, 1973) and on the last plane out of Da Nang (March 29, 1973) and the next to last plane out of the Republic of Vietnam, which will be the essence of my remarks on the Panel.” LTC Laiacona’s memories of his tour are more unrefined. “I remember my first combat operation and seeing green tracer bullets flying over my head…The US Army uses red tracer bullets,” LTC Laiacona said. “Another vivid memory is finding out my best friend from Infantry Officer Candidate School (Fort Benning, Georgia) was killed while serving as a Platoon Leader of a Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP). I escorted his body back to the United States; he was 21 years old.” As the country approaches this significant date, March 29, and the 50th Anniversary of the ending of the U.S. Military involvement in the Vietnam War, the AUSA has collaborated with the City of Saratoga Springs and the NYS Military Museum to honor our nation’s Vietnam War Veterans and family members for their service and sacrifice, which wasn’t as recognized back during war time and the years following shortly thereafter. The CDNY Chapter of the AUSA will continue with its quest to honor those serving during the Vietnam War by sponsoring and working together with their various chapters nationwide to pay tribute to these veterans. For more information about the Association of the U.S. Army, visit the national website www.AUSA.org. For further details regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, contact (877) 387-9951 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.vietnamwar50th.com for additional details. Please take a moment to honor our Vietnam veterans and their family members, and as always, we thank all of our veterans and their families for all that you do. See you next month, here at SaratogaTODAY.
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