Upcoming program for Vietnam-era veterans

Published 10:15 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Smithfield American Legion Post 49 will hold its Vietnam-era Veterans Dinner and Recognition event on March 31 at the Smithfield Center, 220 N. Church St. The event begins at 2 p.m.

All veterans that served in the Vietnam era are invited to a buffet luncheon provided by Smithfield Foods, along with a guest speaker and local representatives, including Delegate Emily Brewer.

The guest speaker will be retired U.S. Army Col. Tony Nadal, a former Special Forces soldier who served two tours in Vietnam. He commanded a cavalry company during the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in November 1965.

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This battle was described in the 1992 book “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young” that was written by retired Lt. Gen. Harold “Hal” Moore and war journalist Joseph Galloway. That book was adapted in the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers,” starring actor Mel Gibson as Moore and Jsu Garcia as Nadal.

Post 49 held a smaller function for Vietnam-era veterans last year, according to spokesman Thomas W. Mastaglio. This was after the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 established March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Mastaglio said the success of last year’s event encouraged them to expand this year’s event.

“It was very positive (response) from the veterans within our own little network,” he said about last year’s event. “It was very heartwarming.”

Their goal is to recognize those who served in the armed forces during that time period, when many veterans were treated poorly upon returning home by citizens that were critical of the war. The event will also be a space for camaraderie among those who served their country.

“There’s a camaraderie from these shared experiences that we think is very beneficial to these veterans,” he said.

Bobby Harper Photography Hampton and Mission BBQ are recognized as partners for the event, and major sponsors include TowneBank and the town of Smithfield.

There is no cost to attend but reservations are required. Post 49 is also extending the invitation to any spouses or family members of veterans who were killed in action during Vietnam.

Call 818-0487 for reservations.