There were once hundreds, now just a few ... Vietnam War Vets

by John B. Snyder
U.S. Army

WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- The Arsenal was once filled with thousands of World War II and Korean War Veterans, but their service here is now just a memory. Although the Vietnam War produced hundreds of Veterans who would assist in the manufacturing of Arsenal products that would support the U.S. and allied troops in many more conflicts, their numbers here are now in the single digits.

And so, within the revered walls of the Arsenal's Historic Big Gun Shop the Arsenal commander took a moment this month to reflect and to honor the nine workers who once served in the Vietnam Theater of Operations during the 1960s and 70s.

Given that the Vietnam War is not widely discussed in high schools or colleges today, and the fact that nearly half of the Arsenal's workforce were not even born until after the major combat operations had ended in Vietnam, this ceremony served as much as an education tool as it was as a recognition ceremony.

Steve Verrigni, who was one of the Veterans honored, said the ceremony brought back good memories of comradery and a sense family that he had while serving in combat with fellow Soldiers.

"No one can truly appreciate or understand how powerful the relationships Soldiers develop with each other unless they have served," Verrigni said. "And, when one serves in combat, that relationship gets even stronger."

Verrigni added that he, as well as other Vietnam Veterans, have a sense of duty to never forget those who have served and those who will serve.

Dave O'Rourke said that this was the first time that he can recall being recognized for his service in Vietnam.

"When I returned home from Vietnam, I did not care if I was recognized or not," O'Rourke said. "But after all of these years, I actually liked the ceremony and appreciate all the effort made to recognize the few of us (Vietnam War Vets) who are still here."

O'Rourke did say that the ceremony was bittersweet in that it brought back memories of intense combat that he has tried to forget through the years. Nevertheless, now that the ceremony is complete, he is very happy to have been honored.

"I took the certificate that I received and made copies and took those copies to VFW Post 729 and shared with my fellow Veterans," O'Rourke said. "I couldn't believe how much my fellow Veterans appreciated the certificates or how much my family would enjoy seeing the ceremony on Facebook."

O'Rourke said that he usually doesn't go onto Facebook but when a fellow Veteran here showed him the Arsenal page, he was amazed to see that several of his family members had posted comments about the ceremony where he and his fellow Veterans were honored.

In front of several hundred Arsenal employees, Col. Joseph Morrow recognized eight of the nine Veterans who wished to participate in the ceremony:

Jim Best, who served in the U.S. Air Force with the 355th avionic maintenance squadron (wild weasels), in Thailand, from January 1970 to December 1970.

Jeff Dishaw, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Enterprise off the coast of Vietnam, from January 1971 to July 1974.

Ken Farley, who served in the U.S. Army with Battery D, 5th Battalion, 2nd Artillery Regiment in Vietnam, from October 1970 to October 1971.

Ron Nichols, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps with the Marine Aircraft Group, 1st Marine Air Wing in Vietnam, from March 1968 to April 1969.

Dave O'Rourke, who served in the U.S. Marines with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Division in Vietnam, from December 1969 to February 1971.

Jim Schlegel, who served in the U.S. Army Reserves with 1018th Supply and Service Company, U.S. Army Support Command in Vietnam, from August 1968 to June 1969.

Ed Stewart, who served in the U.S. Navy onboard the USS Ramsey off the coast of Cambodia and Vietnam, in 1975. Although combat operations ended in 1973 with the signing of the peace accords, the U.S. did maintain military in direct support of Vietnam until Saigon fell in 1975.

And Steve Verrigni, who served in the U.S. Army with the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam, from July 1971 to August 1972.

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