Vietnam Era veterans receive pins at ceremony in Mt. Jewett

Photo by Ted Lutz — Local Vietnam Era veterans received special pins Thursday at a ceremony at the Mt. Jewett Veterans Memorial Club.
Ted Lutz
Staff Writer

MT. JEWETT — More than 50 local Vietnam Era veterans received special pins Thursday at an emotional ceremony at the Mt. Jewett Veterans Memorial Club.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) sponsored the 45-minute program as part of his ongoing salute to those who served in the Armed Services between 1955 and 1975.
Robert DeSousa of Harrisburg, who is the director of Toomey's seven regional offices in the state, represented the senator at the ceremony.
Sheila Fitzgerald Sterrett, the manager of the Erie office for Toomey, stood at a podium and read the names of Vietnam Era veterans who attended the ceremony. 
One by one, the veterans came forward to receive their pins. Some of the recipients slowly walked with the help of canes to receive their pins.
DeSousa exchanged salutes with the veterans, who also received handshakes from Patrick Eaton, the commander of both the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars in Mt. Jewett; Zach Pearson, the director of Veterans Affairs for McKean County; and Carol Duffy of Smethport, one of three members of the county Board of Commissioners.
DeSousa pointed out that Toomey is the sponsor of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which was signed into law March 28, 2017 by U.S. President Donald Trump. The act sets March 29 as the "National Vietnam War Veterans Day."
DeSousa said Toomey has held 35 events across Pennsylvania to honor 6,000 Vietnam Era veterans with the special pins. 
The front of the lapel pin includes an eagle with the words: "Vietnam War Veteran." The back of the pin gives this message: "A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You."
DeSousa, a colonel in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, said Toomey sponsored the "Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act" as a tribute to the nation's men and women who served in "the terrible conflict." 
He said Toomey's bill to recognize Vietnam veterans received bi-partisan support in Congress.
DeSousa said most Americans today show special affection for soldiers in uniform. He said unfortunately this was not the case when Vietnam veterans returned home after "doing their duty" in an unpopular conflict.
According to DeSousa, "Congress got it right" by supporting Toomey's legislation that creates the "National Vietnam War Veterans Day" on March 29.
"I salute you for your service," DeSousa told the Vietnam Era veterans as they came forward to receive their pins. Protocol calls for the presentation of pins "only in person at a ceremony," DeSousa said.

For full article, check the Nov. 16, 2018 printed or e-edition of The Kane Republican.