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It was a standing-room-only crowd as about 300 people gathered on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, to honor veterans who didn’t get their due half a century ago when they returned from Vietnam. 150 veterans were honored.
The event was put together by representatives from VFW Post 10295, American Legion Memorial Post 221, the Caroline County Board of Supervisors, Bowling Green Town Council, Caroline County Sheriff’s Department, Caroline County Department of Public Works, and the Caroline County Department of Economic Development & Tourism.
“None of it would have been possible without the work of Barbara Allen”, said Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nancy Long. Mrs. Allen came to a board meeting last year and told the supervisors they hadn’t properly recognized Caroline County residents who had served in Vietnam.
There were plaques on the courthouse lawn honoring others who fought on foreign fields, but nothing for those from Vietnam, Allen said.
At her nudging, the Board of Supervisors changed that. They appropriated money for a bronze plaque, which was dedicated at the end of Monday’s ceremony. It pays homage to all those who served from 1955 to 1975 and includes the names of six residents who died in action.
They are: Clarence Melvin Gatewood, Thomas Milton Gouldin, Sherman William Gregory, Jerry Wayne Martin, Walter Lee Smith and Joseph Gordon Taylor.
The family members of those killed in action were honored first and were asked to stand as the audience applauded.
Then, fellow Vietnam veteran William Rooney called out the names of another 144 Vietnam veterans, including 12 who had died since their service. Their loved ones and another 132 living veterans contacted organizers, eager to be part of the ceremony.
The guest speaker was Capt. David Zook, commanding officer at AEGIS Training and Readiness Center at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren.