VERSAILLES - During a solemn ceremony with a two-story flag as a back-drop honoring Vietnam Veterans Saturday at the Versailles Old School Gym, speaker Mike McClurg a retired probate and juvenile judge described two stories about veterans of that time who sacrificed for their love of country.
The first was about Lt. Col. James Condon, a prison of war, and McClurg imagining his response of this day. He would have probably thanked everyone like Dave Miller for making the ceremony possible and for veterans being good citizens.
Then he read a letter that could have been from 18-year-old John Richards, who died shortly after entering the war effort in Vietnam on April 7, 1969, to his parents. The young Richards would have probably written that he misses things like being home with the family, earning money and hunting.
Yet what McClurg added first before those two brief descriptions was that it was the hardest speech he’s ever given and prepared. A Vietnam Era veteran himself, he was a military police officer in Germany. He returned to graduate from Wright State University and then Ohio Northern College of Law, practicing law in Versailles and Greenville, and then as a probate and juvenile judge for Darke County.
“I feel strongly for what we’re trying to do here today,” McClurg said. He described how he researched the wartime, how it was a war of Nationalists forces attempting to unify the countries, North and South Vietnam under one communist country. It was a war when public perception was not good and the public failed to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers.
“We found ourselves stuck between the call of duty and protesters,” he said.
“The support wasn’t there, but we’re a wiser nation now,” McClurg told the audience of nearly 150 people. He talked of the actual Vietnam Veterans who fought on the actual soil of Vietnam and the Veterans of the Era.
He called them all special individuals who gave up to, and including their lives. Then he cited their values such as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor and integrity.
McClurg explained that he tried to put a little bit of history, a little bit of what we’ve accomplished, and a little bit of what the veterans experienced during that war.
Miller who coordinated the day that started out with an 8 a.m. breakfast, veterans participating in the parade and coordinating the Flag Day ceremony, told the audience that when he returned from Vietnam and was on a layover from his flight, he didn’t realize that people didn’t like him for his service.
“You’re saying the wrong thing to the wrong guy at the wrong time,” Miller told protesters and related that to the Versailles audience of his own war story. He said he got in a fight with them. Then three other soldiers intervened and asked if they should help or walk away. As they walked away, he said that it’s the brotherhood and friendship that the soldiers from the Vietnam War had together, and they should be proud of their service.