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Vietnam vets honored at luncheon

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Paul Gable of Helping Hands for Freedom thanks the people and groups that made Friday’s luncheon possible.
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A presentation of the flags starts the Vietnam veterans luncheon at the Shelbyville Parks and Recreation Department.
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Vietnam veterans listen as Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun speaks after lunch.
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Carl Bentley performs one of several songs as Vietnam veterans and family members eat.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Calling it “45 years too late,” Helping Hands for Freedom Midwest Community Liaison Paul Gable thanked and welcomed home Vietnam veterans Friday afternoon at the Shelbyville Parks and Recreation Department.

“You served with honor and you served with the hope that my generation, and future generations, remember the sacrifices that you brave men and women made,” he said.

The Vietnam veteran luncheon, hosted by Helping Hands, was meant to serve as a formal thank you for local veterans.

A lunch of hot dogs and sloppy joes were served before Gable and others spoke in recognition of their service.

Gable told the crowd of about 80 that he is the son of a Vietnam veteran, and his family’s service dates back to the Civil War. The one war that was never discussed at home, he said, was Vietnam, despite his father serving in the Navy for 10 years.

“He never talked about it,” he said. “Sure, he’d talk about the places he couldn’t go anymore, since he was in intelligence, but he never talked much about what he saw when he was over there.”

Gable learned more about the war through conversations with other Vietnam veterans and from reading.

“Sadly many of you were blamed, instead of being commended for serving with valor,” he said. “Too many times, you were shunned, when you should have been celebrated. Despite having this country turn its back on you at times, you never turned your back on this country.”

Mayor Tom DeBaun also spoke about his father’s service. His father served in the Air Force but was never deployed to Vietnam.

DeBaun said his parents have been in the middle of planning their estate and through that process, he and his father started talking about his father’s service. He said his father admitted to him that one of his regrets in life was that he wasn’t deployed along with his friends.

“I found that very interesting because he had never indicated anything like that at all,” he said, adding he wanted to serve in politics because he never served in the military.

He later read a proclamation for April 13, 2018 to be Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.

Brandon Herget, the Indiana regional office director for Senator Joe Donnelly, read a letter from the senator. The letter acknowledged that many of Indiana’s servicemen and women didn’t receive the welcome home that they deserved.

“Today, we hope to give our Vietnam veterans the proper welcome home, and do our part to honor their patriotism and service,” the letter said. “While words cannot accurately convey our gratitude, please know that we, as a nation, are deeply grateful for your service.”

The letter also called those veterans “heroes,” no different from those who “stormed the beaches at Normandy, trudged through frozen rivers in Korea and went to the mountains of Afghanistan and deserts of Iraq.”