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Memorial Day program gives thanks to those who served

Members Portage Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps perform drill during Memorial Day ceremony Sunday May 26 2013 Vietnam

Members of the Portage Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps perform a drill during a Memorial Day ceremony on Sunday, May 26, 2013 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Chesterton. | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 28, 2013 6:41AM



CHESTERTON — Maj. John Johnston enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1970 at age 17 and, a year later, he was on his way to Vietnam.

Johnston, speaking during a Memorial Day program Sunday at the Indiana Memorial Wall at Ind. 49 and Porter Avenue, said he grew up with John Wayne and Vic Morrow in the television show “Combat.”

“We didn’t question what we did,” he said of the United States.

“We were right. We didn’t apologize,” he said, adding to do so would dishonor those who served their country.

About 200 people gathered for the program, sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 905 of Porter County, which featured moments of reflection, prayer and giving thanks for those who served their country.

Times have changed since Johnston grew up, he said.

“We have got to protect the future of this country. We have got to build patriotism into everything we do,” he said, urging the crowd to be proud of their patriotism because the people whose names are on the memorial wall deserve it. “It takes courage to be a patriot today. Never, ever be afraid to be a flag waver.”

He urged people to remember veterans all of the time and not just at the end of May. Memorial Day is about more than picnics, flying kites and going to the beach.

“Let’s do that after we set things straight for our veterans,” he said.

Superior Court Judge Julia Jent, herself a veteran, talked about her efforts through the veterans court program in Porter County to assist veterans, many of whom struggle with addiction, anger issues and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when they are charged with a crime.

“What better way to repay our debt to those who serve and are no longer with us than to help those who have served and are struggling to survive,” she said.

As a nation, America must care for those who have returned from combat, many of whom suffer “deep, invisible wounds,” she said, adding the court offers the opportunity to deal with issues that weren’t addressed in the past.

Also lauded for his efforts for veterans was Logan Castro, who, for his Eagle Scout project with Boy Scout Troop 908, logged more than 1,200 hours landscaping the memorial site.

Castro, who has several family members who served in the military, said it was an honor to do the project. He didn’t select the project for his own glory, but “to honor those on the wall behind me.”



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