Veterans trekked in full military uniform along the Long Wharf Drive on Sunday in remembrance of those who died in the Vietnam War.
Roughly 40 veterans and community members commemorated the sacrifice of United States veterans on Sunday morning — the 50th anniversary of the start Battle of Khe Sahn, a monthslong battle that culminated in the start of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The event was organized by the New Haven Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12150.
“It is important to support the events [of the Veterans of Foreign Wars] so people have awareness that we still have troops that are still out there fighting,” said Stanley Borusiewicz Jr., a member of the New Haven Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12150. “We have a lot of people who have served and they need to be recognized because we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today if it wasn’t for those people.”
After a six-mile hike on the New Haven Harbor, the march culminated in a brief ceremony at the V statue, which is engraved with the names of community members who died in the Vietnam War, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park on Long Wharf Drive. Dennis Mannion, a veteran of the Khe Sanh battle and former sergeant of the Marine Corps, gave brief remarks about his experience in Vietnam and on the importance of holding events to honor veterans.
Mannion said that he was fortunate to have survived the Khe Sanh battle after being wounded twice on duty. Still, he recounted the difficulties he faced after returning from the war — including during his flight home on a civilian airplane from Vietnam in which a passenger requested to move to a seat away from Mannion after the passenger learned he was a Vietnam veteran.
Mannion touched on the isolation of veterans during and after the war, noting the lack of discussion about the topic from veterans during that period. At the event, he pointed out a name on the V statue of his former late classmate from Notre Dame High School in West Haven. He said he did not find out about his friend’s death until several years after the war.
He said he is glad that popular perceptions toward veterans have changed, and that it is important to host events honoring men and women who serve.
“To see younger people out here, the uniforms you’re wearing, I understand it and it’s gratifying to see that,” Mannion said, addressing the veterans at the service. “You serve our country, you do a great thing that most people don’t do.”
In 2000, Mannion said he visited Vietnam to give a proper goodbye to 28 of his friends who died during the war.
The New Haven Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12150, an organization of mostly younger veterans, puts on several events each year. James Namnoun, the chaplain of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said the organization was started by post-9/11 veterans at Southern Connecticut State University. Namnoun said the organization makes an effort to be active in the community, noting that the Veterans of Foreign Wars participates in the annual New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“Veterans tend to isolate themselves when they get out of active service,” Namnoun said. “You want to always have engaging things … it’s about being active and letting [veterans] know they’re not alone.”
Many of the city’s Veterans of Foreign Wars members are also part of the Marine Corps Detachment 40 of Glastonbury.
Isabel Bysiewicz | firstname.lastname@example.org