Originally published Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 11:13a.m.

To the editor:

The planning of the Sept. 22 ‘Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Pinning Ceremony’ was initiated and assigned to our office by Hubert Smith, acting executive director for the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration two months ago.

The planning was paved with adversity, especially since it was at the end of the fiscal year and the funding was lacking. We were extremely fortunate to have Ms. Phefelia Bradley, executive director of Public Affairs, Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise direct us to the right person, Mr. Doug Kacena, director of sales, Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort, who helped us significantly to make this a reality and a success.

Not only did Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort provide, free of charge, the ballroom and lunch for this memorable event but increased the lunch, opened another adjoining ballroom to accommodate the 400 participants who welcomed our Vietnam veterans home. I am tremendously grateful to the Twin Arrows Casino and Resort. Most important, much appreciation to the Bryce Warren, general manager, Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, for continuously supporting our veterans.

As with any organization, teamwork is a must to make an event a success. Thank you to my co-workers who do an excellent job at working hard right alongside me: Ferlin Begay, accounts management specialist, Laurie Begay, office assistant and Mr. Hubert Smith for allowing us to organize this event. Much appreciation to our wonderful Emcee, Lemual Adson who, with his wife Saraphina Adson, are always volunteering with our organization, Jefferson L. Begay, Vietnam veteran, Navajo Mountain, Larry Noble and the Honor Riders, Arizona State Senator Jamescita Mae Peshlakai, Gulf War Veteran and advisor to Navajo Nation President on Veteran’s Affairs, Anthony Honahnie, Vietnam War veteran, Purple Heart Medal recipient, Specialist 4, Moenkopi, Arizona, Lena Fowler, Coconino County supervisor, Dr. Leland Leonard, Vietnam veteran, James T. Jackson, Major General, US Army (Ret), director, Vietnam War Commemoration and Paul James Rock, Distinguished Service Cross, Army Vietnam veteran.

My heart was full as we came to the close of the ceremony. I was richly rewarded with deep found respect and appreciation for our Vietnam veterans.

The Vietnam veterans we honored Sept. 22 came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities, “courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity.”

Many of our Vietnam veterans didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. They didn’t even volunteer. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times because they wanted to protect a nation and us.

We have awarded medals to many soldiers, added their names to monuments and named buildings for them, to honor them for their bravery. But nothing can ever replace the hole left behind by a fallen service member, and no number of medals and ribbons can comfort the ones left behind.

On Sept. 22, we gathered together to remember, to honor, and to pay gratitude to those who have served our country, the Vietnam veterans. Our gathering is not a lot, but it’s one small way we can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live in freedom.

Your presence to all those that were in attendance was a tribute to our Vietnam veterans, those lost troops and to their families. It is a way to say we remember and honor them all.

Thank you for attendance and express appreciation to Twin Arrows Casino and Resort for a job well done. God bless you and your families, God bless our troops and God bless America.

Eunice J Begay, Veterans Service Officer/Western Navajo Agency Veterans Administration

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