‘Every day is Memorial Day’
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 27, 2012 8:48PM
Vietnam veteran David Meredith of Portage salutes during the national anthem during the Memorial Day program sponsored by the Vietnams Veterans of America Chapter 905 at the Veterans Memorial Wall Sunday, May 27, 2012, in Chesterton, Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 11:46AM
CHESTERTON — Russell Rogers stood before the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Sunday’s sweltering heat. The Portage resident served in Vietnam in the Army from December 1966 to December 1967.
“There’s some names on here that I know, that were in the 9th Infantry Division and they died in 1967,” said Rogers, a life member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Post 905 in Portage, adding they include a fellow graduate of Portage High School.
He also went through basic training with his best friend, who died three months ago from the effects of Agent Orange. Rogers suffers from complications from the defoliating agent as well.
He often stops by the wall, which includes the names of 1,350 Vietnam veterans from Indiana, to reflect.
“If I’m ever in Chesterton this way (going to church), a lot of times on Sunday I’ll come over and kneel and think about those killed. Those are the true heroes who gave their lives,” he said.
He joined more than 60 other people for a Memorial Day program at the wall sponsored by the VVA chapter to remember the soldiers who paid the ultimate price during the war.
With prayers, patriotism and respect, the crowd, comprised mostly of veterans, recalled the sacrifice of Vietnam veterans as well as those soldiers still fighting overseas.
“Father, we just pray right now for the troops on the front line. We’ve all been there,” said Marin Glennon, chaplain for the VVA chapter, asking those gathered to pray that the troops in Afghanistan return home by Christmas, as President Barack Obama has promised, and they receive the assistance they need.
Featured speaker Elliott Sortillo, who served in the Army and was a prisoner of war for 33 months during the Korean War, then went on to serve in Vietnam, noted the sacrifice made by all soldiers.
“For me, every day is Memorial Day,” the Portage resident said. “Not a day goes by that I don’t see a face that reminds me of someone I lost 60 years ago.”
The program drew Omar Farag of Gary, who brought along his nephew, Cody St. Pierre, 11, of New Chicago. Farag, who served in Vietnam in the Army for three years, only recently learned about the wall.
“I think it’s very cool. I like that it’s all the Indiana guys. I went to grade school with some of the guys,” he said, adding he brought Cody along because the boy is interested in the military, “and this is where you find real soldiers who really did it.”