Service at Layton’s Vietnam memorial to mark 50 years since war’s end
LAYTON — Dennis Howland is inviting the public and Vietnam veterans to attend a special ceremony observing the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
A remembrance and pin ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Vietnam Memorial Wall Replica at Layton Commons Park, 437 N. Wasatch Drive. March 29 is the actual anniversary date, but Howland said another ceremony is taking place at the Utah Capitol that day.
“I’m hoping the public will come out and attend,” Howland said. “It’s a really important event. Even if you come and talk to a veteran and just say thank you, it would mean a lot.”
Howland, who is the national at-large director of the Vietnam Veterans of America and president of the VVA’s Utah State Council, said the VVA has partnered with the Daughters of the American Revolution in Layton to host the event.
“We’ll have a massing of the colors and invite Scout troops or color guards or anyone who has colors to come and participate,” he said. “We’ll have a pin ceremony where we will issue pins to those who served during the war and for surviving families and even for the families of those who have lost a veteran since coming home from the war.”
Howland joined the Marine Corps after his high school graduation. He served in Vietnam from 1966-1967, during which he flew helicopters, retrieved wounded soldiers, built bunkers and put up radar bubbles to direct air strikes. He said it was worth every second.
“I know I did the right thing,” he said. “When we came home, we weren’t welcomed favorably. We were spit on, had garbage and rocks thrown at us, but I know I did the right thing. Nobody likes war, but to maintain the freedoms we take for granted and try to impress on the rest of the world, war sometimes has to be fought.”
In 2018, Howland raised funds to build a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at Layton Commons Park. The wall is 360 feet long and features 58,317 names of veterans who didn’t make it home. In addition, there are benches along the walkway at the park with etchings of the names of eight female nurses who also served.
“We couldn’t have done it without those nurses,” Howland said. “There were about 7,500 of them total and let me tell you, without them, we would have had even more casualties.”
The United States fought in Vietnam from 1955-1975. Howland said Utah is among 17 other states that actually had a recognition day two years before then-President Donald Trump declared March 29 a national day for recognizing Vietnam veterans.
“This is a time to honor each of our veteran brothers and sisters, honor the 58,317 that didn’t make it home, the 1,580 still unaccounted for and the families of each and every one who served,” Howland said. “We are encouraging everyone to come and attend.”