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Attleboro Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall
writes, "by Councilor Todd M Kobus

It was an honor and humbling to speak at the Attleboro Vietnam Veterans Moving Wall. Below were my remarks:

"On behalf of the Attleboro Municipal Council, we would like to thank everyone for coming out this afternoon to honor and remember the sacrifice of the men and women who served in the Vietnam Era and those that died as a result of their service.

I have such profound respect for the men and women that served during Vietnam, but I’m also torn...
I’m uneasy because I and so many veterans of recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan like Ken and myself have been treated with respect and honor as a direct result of the mistakes of our past and the mistreatment of Vietnam veterans.

Around every corner, soldiers coming home today are thanked for their service. We’re applauded as we get off planes; When I returned home with the 42nd Infantry Division after a year-long combat tour in Iraq and we drove to our national guard base in Rehoboth, the buses drove down streets lined with cheering crowds and waving flags. We had police escorts and celebrations. It was overwhelming and I felt immense pride and patriotism...

But it wasn’t about the crowds, it was about the shared relief felt by my brothers and sisters and the camaraderie we now shared...

Speaking of that camaraderie, over 400 years ago, Shakespeare wrote:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;“

I value that bond with my brothers and sisters more than almost anything… because they were there. They shared in this time that changed and shaped all of our young lives in so many ways

And as a result, at times I’ve taken the support of strangers for granted… There were mornings where I’d be in uniform running late for drill at 0-dark thirty. I’d stop at Dunkin Donuts to grab a quick coffee and inevitably a well intentioned individual would say “thank you for your service” and I would mindlessly respond “thank you for your support”.

I’m sorry I ever took that support for granted. I can’t imagine what it was like for Vietnam Veterans to come home and be treated with such disrespect. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have fought valiantly and survived hell on earth only to return home and be told as you get off a plane that you need to double time it across the tarmac because there are protesters at the gate and intel suggests they may be armed. Or to be told to travel home, not in uniform, but in civilian clothes due to the unrest in our country.

There’s a line from the song Goodnight Saigon that has always resonated with me... it simply says "we promised our mothers we'd write." The average age of those lost in Vietnam was 23 years old... These were boys just out of school whose lives had been forever changed in an instant. Boys whose reality was now so far removed from the pleasant monotony of home. What was there to write home about? What could be put to paper? Why would you want to?

I can’t imagine what it was like to then try and slip back into normal life while haunted by the faces of so many brothers whose names are on that wall and not be able to talk about it. To suffer silently while your parents are called the “greatest generation”... to suffer silently with PTSD and be expected to somehow live a normal life. To fear going to sleep at night in your own bed….

The song goes:

“And it was dark,
So dark at night.
And we held onto each other
Like brother to brother
We promised our mothers we'd write”

It is the names of those brothers and sisters that gave their youth that are on the wall. It is their faces and memories that we remember and honor today.

The Vietnam War remains the most controversial armed conflict in American history, but it also affected great positive change. How we fight our wars, how we support our troops and veterans, even the very way we look at war and the military have been tremendously impacted.

Thank you to the parents that are teaching their children to respect and honor veterans, and teaching them to separate the war from the warrior so we may never repeat the sins of our forefathers.

Each of the 9 million veterans that served during the Vietnam period deserves our profound thanks. And so, from the bottom of all of our hearts, to the Vietnam Veterans…. thank you for your service.

To the names etched on the wall whose faces are forever etched in the hearts of so many… You are not forgotten. Thank you for your service.

And from me personally… Thank you for insisting my brothers and sisters come home with dignity and respect from today’s wars…. And, I’m sorry… I’m sorry that I received the homecoming you deserved. Thank you for your service, thank you for your support… welcome home."

On the weekend of Sept. 28th, 2019, The Vietnam Moving Wall Memorial was at Highland Park in Attleboro. “The Moving Wall” is the half-size replica of the Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial and has been touring the country for thirty plus years.


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