Vietnam veterans honored with trip to Washington
Wanda English Burnett
veterans were like most other veterans of foreign wars in one
respect - they did not expect a heroes welcome when they returned
They also didnt expect an angry crowd throwing not only
verbal slurs at them, but physical objects such as tomatoes
as described by one veteran.
These war heroes were no different than others who served before
them in WWI, WWII, or Korea. They simply answered the call to
duty as requested by their government.
PG Gentrup, Ohio County Veterans Service Officer and a Vietnam
veteran himself, believes feelings of animosity toward those
who served in the 60s and 70s in this unpopular
war have diminished greatly. He also knows that education is
the key for future generations to realize the great sacrifice
these veterans made along with their families.
They served. They came home and had to silently deal with the
horrors of death and war by themselves. It was better
not to talk about it, Paul Scholle of Osgood, told The
Versailles Republican. You just did your duty, then were
expected to forget about it and get on with your life,
Thats exactly what Scholle did. He served in the Marines
in Vietnam in 1968-69. He worked in administration because I
could type in a hospital by day and carried an M60 patrolling
the beaches at night. He remembered a mortar hit at the hospital
where he worked.
Danger lurked everywhere no matter what military position you
were in during the Vietnam War.
Scholle, along with four other Ripley County Vietnam veterans
had the opportunity to take a trip to Washington DC recently,
thanks to the generosity of the Dearborn Community Foundation
and others who worked to bring it together.
Gentrup organized the trip through John Schuler Tours, that
saw nearly 50 veterans taking a three-day bus excursion to Washington.
Those from Ripley County besides Scholle included: Milton Howard,
Sunman; Gene May, Versailles; Roy Mitchell Sr., Sunman; Willard
Baker, Milan; and Ken Hylton, Veterans Service Officer for Ripley
The Ripley County veterans combined with those from Dearborn
County to have three days to remember, reflect, respect and
be honored for their service. Another veteran who helped organize
the trip, Dave Teke, had tears in his eyes as he thanked others
who served. He still feels the hurt of the unwelcome homecoming
all those years ago and was honored to be numbered with those
on the trip.
The veterans gathered at the Lawrenceburg American Legion Post
where they boarded the bus. After a prayer by Chaplain Pat McClanahan
of Moores Hill, the journey began. The bus was escorted in style
by Lawrenceburg City Police to the interstate.
An all expense paid trip included meals and lodging at the Hampton
Inn & Suites Washington-Dulles Hotel in Sterling, VA.
The group made a stop in Pennsylvania at the 9-11 crash site
memorial. Right now there is a hole where the plane crashed
with memorials on a fenced area. Plans are in the making to
erect a memorial to the tune of $15 million to remember those
lives lost when a plane headed for Washington DC was diverted
and taken down.
The air held a solemn eerie feel as people just quietly read
the accounts of the lives of those on the aircraft that were
lost that day.
A big day of sightseeing was had on Saturday, September 18 as
the group headed for the Vietnam veterans memorial - known as
Here these veterans know the cost of the war they served in.
They can read thousands of names etched in stone. Many of the
group from Dearborn County made rubbings on the wall and looked
up fallen comrades.
They were able to see all of the monuments in Washington, memorials
and the White House. A special time for the veterans was when
they arrived at the Arlington National Cemetery for the Laying
of the Wreath ceremony. Four veterans from the group, Dave Teke,
Ed Shannon and Marty Sizemore, both members of the Vietnam Veterans
of America #71, Aurora, and Tim Sandford, commander of the Lawrenceburg
American Legion, were honored to participate in the ceremony
that commanded absolute silence from the crowd gathered there.
It was a time to remember all Vietnam veterans from Southeastern
Indiana as the beautiful red, white and blue wreath was placed
at the Tomb of the Unknown.
While the group definitely shed tears, had solemn moments and
shared some horrific war experiences, they also bonded and had
times of unbridled fun. Included in the tour was the visit the
Uddvar-Hazy Air and Space Center in Chantilly, VA.
Even after a full day of touring, many of the veterans were
game to return to Washington DC to view the monuments at night.
The shining lights from the World War II memorial complimented
the gushing fountains. World War II Veteran Bill McClure, 90,
of Rising Sun, was on the trip and thoroughly enjoyed the memorial.
Several of the veterans on the trip were second generation military
men. They told stories of their fathers serving and then their
own experience, which was much different. Wayne Morgan, Moores
Hill, was one such veteran who was treated to a VIP tour of
the White House by a friend of his who is in security there.
The homecoming into Lawrenceburg was the best part of the trip
for some. At first, it was quiet and perhaps they were remembering
how it was all those years ago when they were spit on and had
things thrown at them. This was much different. As the bus exited
the Interstate into the City of Lawrenceburg, two fully marked
police cars with lights on took the bus through the city with
At first the bus was quiet, and then the realization dawned.
They were being thanked for their service. The veterans were
VIPs who deserved yet never commanded such a welcome. Back at
the Lawrenceburg American Legion Post a group had gathered with
signs to welcome the veterans back. The group clapped as the
men exited the bus and there were plenty of hugs to go around.
Ripley County Veterans Officer Ken Hylton told The Versailles
Republican he is working on getting a group of Vietnam veterans
together for a similar tour for the spring of next year. He
said he will seek grant money so the veterans do not have to
pay anything. Hylton shared that there are about 2300 veterans
altogether living in Ripley County.
Statistics from an Indiana University research revealed that
10.4% of the adult population in Indiana are veterans with 34%
serving in the Vietnam era from 1961 to 1975.
To find out more about future trips or if your business or organization
would like to fund part of the trip you can contact Hylton at
ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTOS
Above: Pictured are Vietnam veterans
from Ripley County at the Capitol Building in Washington
DC. Standing from left are: Willard Baker, Gene May, Paul
Scholle, and Milton Howard. Front row kneeling are Roy
Mitchell Sr. left, and Ken Hylton, right. Left: Paul Scholle
has a moment of reflection as he pauses at statues of
soldiers at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.
Scholle, as the others, served during Vietnam.