By Portia Williams
SOUTH SHORE, Ky. — With much grace, passion, and patriotism, Lieutenant Colonel Vance Huston, USMC, Ret. delivered a heartfelt keynote address for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge Dedication held Rotary Park in South Shore, Ky., on Monday. The dedication ceremony opened with a warm welcome by Allen Blair, public information officer for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 9.
“Our agency plays a small part in these ceremonies. It is one of the greatest privileges that we have to make a sign to honor our veterans, and Blair said. The welcome was followed by the Posting of the Colors by Greenup County High School JROTC. The crowd was also led by Pastor Danny Bentley in the singing of the National Anthem. The invocation was rendered by J.R. Reed.
Keynote speaker Lt. Huston served 23 years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps, and flew more than 160 combat missions in Vietnam. He was a member of an elite group of pilots who flew ‘Marine 1,’ the helicopter of the President of the United States — who was John F. Kennedy at the time.
“I am very humbled to have been asked to do this today,” Huston said. “Because, honestly I think there were some wonderful, wonderful folks that went away to the Vietnam War that never had any recognition, and I am just so thrilled that this bridge is being dedicated in honor of them today. So, this is not about me, this is about all who served in Vietnam, 58,000 names that appear on the wall in Washington D.C. and nine names that appear on our War Memorial up the road.”
Huston spoke of the blessing it is to reside in a country in which we are free to move about to places of worship without any reservations.
“As a part of our celebration here today, I want to list all of the names that appear on our memorial,” Huston said. “On Saturday, I had my own little service up there as I reviewed these names, most of them I do not know,” Huston said. “Then yesterday, most of us went to church, and one of the things that really blessed me, is that nobody asked me for my passport when I went to church. We are really blessed that people are willing to die for us, so that they will not ask you for your passport when you go into church. My two grand children are here from China, and I knew when we visited them in Beijing, as we were getting ready for church my son came to us and said, ‘Don’t forget to take your passport and mom’s passport, because you have to show it to get into church.’”
He said the bridge dedication, in essence, is about a celebration of freedom.
“So, really what we are celebrating today, is we have freedom where we don’t have to show our passport when we go into church, and these are the folks that we need to honor today,” Huston said. He proceeded with the reading of the names of the nine Vietnam Veterans listed on the War Memorial in Greenup County, Ky. “Thank you for your sacrifice.”
Tanya Pullin, Kentucky State Representative House District 98, said the Memorial Bridge Dedication was made possible through the Vietnam Veterans of America, South Shore, Ky. Chapter.
“This our way of saying, welcome home and thank you for your service,” Pullin said. “It was the Vietnam Veterans of America South Shore Chapter that first brought this up, and wanted it done. I commend them not only for that, but they also provide a place for Vietnam Veterans to fellowship with one another, and they are a very active, important force in our community, and we thank all of the Vietnam Veterans.”
Senator Robin Webb, D-Grayson, who was also present at the dedication ceremony, said the bridge dedication can serve as a source of healing to the United States armed forces, and the nation as a whole.
“Vietnam was a very hard time in American history, and certainly for the men and women who served in that war,” Webb said. “I had family members there, and I have friends who are still missing in action from that war. We want to honor them, and welcome them home, and let this maybe to be a part of the healing process every time that they get together, and let our nation heal as well as our own armed services.”
The ceremony was concluded with the unveiling of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge sign, which was conducted by all of the Vietnam Veterans that were present. Immediately following the unveiling, a meal was served in the park for the program guests, veterans, and all who came out to support the special event.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.
Lt. Col. Vance Huston, USMC, Ret. was the guest speaker for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge
Dedication at Rotary Park in South Shore, Ky. on Monday