Vietnam vets to be honored Friday at Hopwood memorial
For Glenn Neilsen of Grindstone, an Army veteran, his experience upon returning from the war in Vietnam in 1970 was similar to many of those who served.
“When we got back, nobody cared about us,” he said.
And for the families of the 49 from Fayette County, seven from Connellsville, who were killed in the war and the one who is still missing, there was no recognition of their sacrifice.
That changed in 1984 when Neilsen and a group of his fellow veterans got together to start fundraising to build a memorial. AMVETS Post 103 in Hopwood gave the group a 99-year lease on the property at Walnut Street and Buttermilk Lane.
By 1986, the funds were raised and the monument was complete. The first vigil was held in 1985.
Now, for the 28th consecutive year, a vigil will be held, beginning at noon Friday at the site to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. A candlelight service will be held, with invitations extended to the families and friends of the fallen, beginning at 9 p.m. The vigil will resume on Saturday, from 7 a.m. until noon.
One special guest who has attended every year will be Zelda Eans. Eans lost her son, Larry, to the war in 1968.
“She more or less adopted us,” Neilsen said.
A standing invitation is open to anyone wishing to stand a 15-minute interval honoring all soldiers of the Vietnam War. The closing ceremony will begin at noon Saturday. The main speaker will be retired Sgt. 1st Class David Lowden, an Army and Vietnam War veteran.
Neilsen said he is proud of the monument and the ceremony. He believes the bad treatment of Vietnam veterans is the reason why treatment of returning veterans today is different.
“(We are) why these kids are now getting recognition,” Neilsen said.
Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3538.