The Vietnam War ended in 1968 and as the soldiers came home they weren’t welcomed back kindly.
In fact, they were called all kinds of ugly names, spat on and had things thrown at them. Soldiers were advised not to wear their uniforms when they went into town.
The spouses of the Vietnam veterans weren’t treated much better.
But 50 years later, they are finally being recognized and thanked for their service to their country.
Memorials have been erected across the country and in Jay to remember the sacrifices the Vietnam veterans made.
As the motto goes “All gave some, some gave all” and they needed to be remembered.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, members of the American Legion hosted a special service to recognize and thank the spouses of Vietnam veterans as part of the Certificate of Honor Program called Deceased Vietnam Veterans Surviving Spouses.
In 2008 Congress directed the Secretary of Defense to implement a program thanking Vietnam veterans and spouses for their support and service to a war that lasted from 1955 to 1975.
Funds were appropriated to cover the cost of the pins and certificates.
The program was set up to honor multiple groups: “Unaccounted For”, “Former, Living, American Military POW”, “In Memory Of” and “Deceased Vietnam Veteran’s Surviving Spouses.”
It has been a challenge to find the veterans spouses.
Robert Lawson, Commander of Jay’s American Legion, said they were able to find 25 from the Jay area.
A few had moved to other areas of the country, but most were still living around Jay.
During the program, each spouse was escorted to the front by a veteran where they received a personalized Certificate of Honor and a lapel pin commemorating their service to the country.
In addition, the Legion was able to award and honor three Vietnam veterans who had not yet been recognized: Shirley Roberts, Jerry Harper and David Sturges.
Shirley Roberts was recognized as both a veteran and a deceased Vietnam veteran’s surviving spouse.
Roberts joined in 1974, as one of only seven females brought into the Air Force, at that time.
She was so excited about getting in, she wasn’t picky about the position she was assigned.
Aircraft mechanic was to be the position, serving in Germany, working on jets and airplanes.
Since she was so petite and could fit, she had the dubious honor of being chosen to crawl into the jet engine intake to inspect it for damage and needed repairs.
The females were not welcomed in their new assignments, nor highly regarded.
Roberts said “I just learned my job and to do it well.”
It was a culture shock in so many ways, going into a male dominated career, especially since she came from a family all females, including their dog.
Her dad was always the out-voted.
Roberts met her husband in the Air Force where he served as a navigator and in aerospace physiology, teaching pilots about parachuting and other aspects of flying.
He died three years ago of lung cancer.
Roberts “really enjoyed her service time” and was in active duty for seven years, then got out in 1981 to raise her family.
After her family was raised, she went back in as a reservist in 1998.
Roberts is active in the Jay American Legion.
The American Legion continues to honor veterans and to advocate for them.
They put out the American flags in Jay twice a year, they present the Colors at the Jay high school games and participate in other community events.
They helped acquired and arranged for the F-4 Phantom jet static display in Grove, Oklahoma.
The Legion would welcome veterans into their ranks. For more information, persons interested may contact Lawson at 918-253-6044.
They appreciate any donations from the community as that is the only source of funds.