Each year, the Battleship Missouri Memorial hosts a special Veterans Day sunset ceremony on board the historic ship in the reverent waters of historic Pearl Harbor. The ceremony honored the service and sacrifice of all veterans, and featured a special tribute to those veterans who served during the Vietnam War, as 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of its conclusion.
America’s involvement in the Vietnam conflict spanned nearly 20 years, longest in U.S. history. Of the estimated 23.2 million U.S. veterans, 7.8 million – one-third of all veterans – served during Vietnam. The average infantryman in Vietnam was 22 years old and served 240 days of combat in one year.
U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) presented the ceremony’s keynote address honoring the service of her fellow veterans. Rep. Gabbard served two tours of duty in the Middle East and is currently a Military Police Major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.
“Today our nation is grateful and forever indebted to our fallen warriors. To those who served and came home, this is a debt that is impossible to measure and is impossible to perfectly repay. But it’s a debt that’s important for us to remember, to consider the cost of war. There’s no question about our men and women standing ready to answer the call. They volunteered to sacrifice everything for this great country, to do whatever needs to be done to protect the freedoms and the security that we cherish,” said Rep. Gabbard.
Capt. Gerald Coffee, USN (Ret.) served as the ceremony’s Distinguished Guest Speaker. Capt. Coffee, a Vietnam War veteran, was held as a prisoner of war for seven years from 1966-73 in the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ where he was routinely subjected to torture and solitary confinement.
“I’m very proud of my service in Vietnam, as every Vietnam veteran should be. We accomplished so much more than we get credit for. Every Vietnam veteran should hold his or her head high and acknowledge the accomplishments that we achieved there. Congratulations on a job extremely well done,” said Capt. Coffee.
As an organization, the Battleship Missouri is home to a current crew of veteran staff and volunteers, including Tim Guard, Chairman of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, who presented the opening address. Guard, served in Vietnam as an officer for the U.S. Navy in 1969-70. His patrol boat unit, the Black Cat Squadron, fought in the heavy combat zones of Vietnam’s river deltas and was one of the war’s most highly decorated naval units.
“We Vietnam veterans came home to a nation of fellow Americans who hardly seemed to care that we had ever left. People were apathetic at best, derisive at their worst. Time and circumstances have moderated the attitudes of many about the Vietnam War. Thankfully, a lasting lesson learned from the experience of Vietnam is that veterans now return home greeted by well-deserved tributes for their service. Proclamations are issued, bands play patriotic music, parades march along main street, and people cheer. America truly affirms the pride and appreciation our nation has for the courage, valor, sacrifice, and service of our veterans,” said Guard.
Capt. Gerald "Jerry" Coffee (3rd from left), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (3rd from right), and Tim Guard (far right) were featured speakers at today's sunset ceremony onboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial.
The ceremony also featured patriotic music by the U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division Band, a certificate presentation by members of the Hawaii State Senate, and a flag folding tribute by the Hickam Honor Guard. The flag, which was flown over the Battleship Missouri Memorial earlier in the day, was presented to retired Colonel Jack Detour, who holds the distinction of having served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, first with the U.S. Army and then with the U.S. Air Force.
Special recognition goes to our own Mighty Mo veteran staff members:
George Arine, U.S. Army Michael Carr, U.S. Army Marvin Dumlao, U.S. Army National Guard
Paul Dyson, U.S. Coast Guard Jeff Eck, U.S. Army Laurence Elrich, U.S. Navy
John Fernie, U.S. Navy Daniel Fey, U.S. Army Henry 'Hank' Heren, U.S. Air Force
Robert Honea, U.S. Air Force Henry 'Kimo' James, U.S. Navy Jim King, U.S. Navy
James Kingery, U.S. Army & Navy David Kinney, U.S. Army Leslie Lancaster, U.S. Navy
Tobias Lanqcaon, U.S. Navy Thomas Manuel, U.S. Navy Peter Masga, U.S. Navy
Jason Morrison, U.S. Marine Corps Robert Morrison, U.S. Navy Zachary Musolf-Domstead, U.S. Navy
Kevin Naeyaert, U.S. Navy Michael Nolan, U.S. Army Daniel Parsons, U.S. Navy
William Powers, U.S. Marine Corps Patricia Roebuck, U.S. Navy Richard Rupe, U.S. Coast Guard
Ralph Schmidt, U.S. Navy Harold 'Doc' Simpson, U.S. Army Elbert Stills, U.S. Coast Guard
David Suhs, U.S. Navy Robert White, U.S. Army Michael Weidenbach, U.S. Air Force
Greg Williams, U.S. Marine Corps Keven Williamson, U.S. Navy Andrew Toia, U.S. Army National Guard
Michael Yanagihashi, U.S. Army