Vietnam War veterans honored in Vacaville – The Vacaville Reporter

For nearly five decades, Army veteran Nick Sanza of Napa has been unwilling to go to anything that reflected his time serving in the Vietnam War.

However, after working with the Concord Vet Center and the Rowland Freedom Center, he didn’t hesitate to attend the 50th Saturday commemoration ceremony in Vacaville.

“It’s the first year in almost 49 years that I’ve wanted to do one,” Sanza said. “Forty-nine and it feels good.”

Helping at the event, Sanza – who served between 1971 and 1973 – said he bonded with other veterans during their time in service and gratitude for surviving what they had lived. The interaction, apparently, was therapeutic for him.

” It was magical. I needed it, Sanza said.

The ceremony took place at the Rowland Freedom Center, a partnership between the center and the Concord Vet Center ahead of Vietnam War Veterans Day, which is Tuesday.

After hosting a small event in their parking lot nearly a year ago, the Concord Vet Center was looking to branch out into a larger space. The center aims to help former military members access appropriate veterans services in Contra Costa, Solano County and other areas of the region. When Rowland’s managing director Paul Mirich heard of the need, he reached out.

“I would love to work with any veterinary center,” Mirich said. “Any veterinary center that needs a place to hold something, come on.”

Concord Veterinary Center outreach specialist and event organizer Joe Moglia was delighted with the welcome from the museum and the help of Rowland’s volunteers.

“When we showed up this morning…we had about 10 volunteers helping us get ready for the event,” Moglia said.

Opening the doors at noon, veterans and their families wandered the grounds of the museum, viewing the exhibits in the hangar and the variety of vehicles parked throughout. They gathered information from Concord’s mobile veterinary center and answered questions from staff members.

While enjoying a meal freshly prepared by volunteers, conversations between attendees flourished and strangers quickly became friends.

John Clark, a retired United States Navy veteran who served in the Vietnam War, enjoys one of the walking exhibits at the Rowland Freedom Center in Vacaville before the start of the 50th Vietnam Commemoration Ceremony organized at the museum by the Concord Vet Center on Saturday. (Photo by Corey Kirk/The Reporter)

“We share something unique,” ​​said Victor Gomez, an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War between 1967 and 1969. “War veterans, especially combat veterans, are unique.”

Once the crowd settled in after the first hour, the ceremony began. The speakers addressed a multitude of subjects, all with the same objective: to pay tribute to those who fought for their country. While the topic of conversation centered around the Vietnam War, there was also discussion of mental health and the resources that can be provided to those who served.

“One of the things that all veterans are ashamed of is what happened to you after the Vietnam War and the way the citizens treated you when you came back,” said the county director of veterans services. Solano, Alfred Sims, at the ceremony. “What our veterans receive from society is not welfare. What veterans get from our society is what they have earned.

After facing the harsh reality of returning from war, many veterans may not have felt welcomed and cared for. But they will never again, the speakers said, be underestimated.

“They didn’t have their welcome home parades and we’re trying to do that now to show how much we appreciate them,” said Concord Vet Center physician Cynthia Dodge.

Later, Moglia encouraged veterans to come forward for well-deserved recognition for their service. Commemorative pins and P-38 can openers were then donated.

For Moglia, the gratitude of the participants was the highlight of the event.

“The simplest things can bring them the greatest joys, which was great for me,” Moglia said.

Concord Vet Center staff said they hope to expand their reach to help Solano County veterans by opening a branch near Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

Navy veteran and Fairfield resident Bob Jacobsen, who received the Silver Star and four Purple Heart medals for his service in the Vietnam War, said he would like to see more help offered to veterans closer from their house.

“Having our own center here, we can get more people there, that would be nice,” Jacobsen said.

For more information on veteran assistance, visit the Concord Vet Center website at https://www.va.gov/concord-vet-center/.

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