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Vietnam veterans recognized with event at Layton’s Memorial Wall

By Ryan Aston - | Mar 30, 2024
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Dennis Howland, national at-large director and Utah state president of Vietnam Veterans of America, addresses the crowd at a National Vietnam Veterans Day event in Layton on Friday, March 29, 2024.
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The Vietnam Memorial Wall replica at Layton Commons Park, photographed Friday, March 29, 2024.
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A large crowd gathered for a Vietnam War Veterans Day celebration in Layton on Friday, March 29, 2024.

LAYTON — Since 2017, March 29 has been officially recognized as National Vietnam Veterans Day throughout the U.S., a day to fly flags and recognize the service given and sacrifices made by those who were part of the Vietnam War.

To that end, a large crowd gathered near the Vietnam Memorial Wall replica in the northeast section of Layton Commons Park to celebrate the veterans (including those who served in non-combat roles or outside of Vietnam itself), their families and others who were affected by the conflict, for their courage and dedication.

Dennis Howland, the national at-large director and Utah state president of Vietnam Veterans of America and a Vietnam vet himself, served as the emcee for the event, which featured a number of distinguished speakers.

“To all veterans, both present today and those who have passed on, and those names on this wall, we extend our deepest gratitude and heartfelt thanks for your service and sacrifice,” Layton Mayor Joy Petro said as she addressed the crowd.

“You answered the call of duty during a time of great uncertainty and division, and you served with valor and commitment, often in the face of unimaginable challenges and dangers.”

Petro further acknowledged the price that was still being paid by men and women who had served when they returned home and throughout the rest of their lives, even today.

“You faced challenges in society, battling with both the physical and psychological wounds of that war, and struggling to find your place in our country that was deeply divided with conflict that you had just endured yourself,” she said. “But today, we acknowledge and recognize the immense burdens that you carried both abroad and at home.”

After several days of cold, rainy weather recently, the sun broke through the clouds just in time for remarks from Sterling Poulson, formerly KUTV’s chief meteorologist and a fixture in local broadcast news for decades.

Poulson also is a Vietnam veteran, and he similarly recognized the struggle that those who served with him continue to endure.

“We have brothers and sisters who served during the Vietnam War who are still healing and, in some cases, suffering from cancer and other life-threatening diseases. But they are getting more and more help each day to face these challenges,” Poulson said. “We are strong and getting stronger with time.”

The effort to recognize the war, the people who served in it and the legacy thereof, both now and into the future, was a recurring theme during the proceedings.

“These kids didn’t come home and we did,” Howland said in reference to the 58,317 names of those killed in the conflict that are listed on the Memorial Wall. “So let’s remember that that’s perhaps the reason why we came home — to honor them.”

Congressman Blake Moore was an impromptu speaker at the event, talking about the work that his office has done to receive interviews with vets for submission to the Library of Congress.

He implored those in attendance to record their own stories on video so that they can be shared with family and submitted for the benefit of future generations.

The Utah Military Academy Choir performed during the event, singing the Armed Forces medley and The Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” Meanwhile, the academy’s Paul Kapp concluded the event by playing taps.

The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Layton was built in 2018 and is an 80% scale replica of the original monument in Washington, D.C. It measures 360 feet in length and is over 9 feet tall at its apex. Of the names engraved upon it, 366 belong to people from Utah.


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