Crown Point ceremony focuses on sacrifices of Vietnam vets
BY CARRIE NAPOLEON Post-Tribune correspondent November 11, 2013 11:24PM
Updated: December 13, 2013 6:18AM
CROWN POINT — Veterans young and old gathered at the steps of the historic Lake County Courthouse Monday for a ceremony honoring the sacrifice of a military life.
“A veteran is a person who has written a check to the people of the U.S. in an amount up to and often including his life,” said B.J. Fitzgerald, one of the presenters at the annual event hosted by the city and Crown Point American Legion Post 20.
Fitzgerald, who also played taps on the trumpet to close out the ceremony, said some of those checks remain open while others have been paid in full by those who have paid the ultimate price in their service.
“The freedom that has been purchased with those checks is so dear,” Fitzgerald said.
Former Crown Point Mayor James Forsythe said at one time in our history the sacrifice made by members of the military was not immediately acknowledged. Still today, ceremonies often focus on World War II veterans and those involved with more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This Veterans Day, Forsythe said, the post wanted to specifically acknowledge those veterans who served in Vietnam. More than 55,000 service members lost their lives in Vietnam; the number of injured exceeded 300,000.
One of those men was former U.S. Marine Anthony Dawson of Crown Point, who served with the Third Marines in the Demilitarized Zone, “where the rubber hits the road,” he said.
Dawson was shot once in the line of duty and injured in explosions three times before he finally had the chance to return home. He is a three-time recipient of the Purple Heart. Dawson, a member of Post 20, said having the ceremony focus on Vietnam is nice.
Given strong antiwar sentiment and protests during that conflict, there was a lot of disrespect or outright hostility from the public toward him and his fellow service members upon their return.
But ultimately, public distaste for such treatment ended up being a turning point in how civilians view the military, Dawson said — and that, he added, is a good thing.
“It started basically people standing up for the troops no matter what,” Dawson said.
Andrew Kyres, Crown Point City Council president, told the crowd of about 75 people that Veterans Day is a day all Americans need to assume an “attitude of gratitude” for the members of the U.S. armed forces.
“Today is not a day just to enjoy having the holiday off,” Kyres said. It is, instead, a time to reflect and honor the members of the military for everything they have done.
U.S. Marines Staff Sgt. Gene Bradley wore his dress blues in the crowd. Bradley was guest speaker earlier in the day at a program at Hanover Central High School, where he told students about his deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said events that mark Veterans Day are important to him for two reasons. The first is to pay tribute to those who serve, but the second is to remember the families. Bradley said it is important to remember to thank the military families who remain behind when their loved ones are deployed.
“Without your support it would be very hard for us to be doing what we are doing over there,” Bradley said.