Remembering the fallen PDF Print E-mail
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor   
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 09:46
Lt. Col. Hien Nguyen speaks during the Memorial Day Service held at the Veteran's Building in Bowling Green City Park. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
When Lt. Col. Hien Nguyen thanked local veterans on Memorial Day, he spoke of being grateful for more than his freedom. He owed them his life.
Nguyen, who commands the Air Force ROTC program at Bowling Green State University, was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1970. As a child, he witnessed burning buildings, charred cars throughout the city and "burning bodies in the streets." PHOTO BLOG
Since his father was in the South Vietnamese Army, the family was forced to flee the country in 1975 when Saigon fell to Communist North Vietnam. Nguyen, then 5, and his family escaped with many other refugees on a shrimp boat. They were rescued by American sailors and taken to the Philippines, then to the U.S. After spending some time in a refugee camp in Arkansas, his family made its home in Oklahoma.
Though the images of his homeland at war will never be forgotten, the memories of military members serving with strength and integrity are much stronger.
"I also remember those who became my heroes," Nguyen said.
Nguyen has spent much of his life thanking those heroes by devoting his life to the military. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1992 and just completed his 21st year of active duty.
He continues to be inspired by American veterans who gave their all.
"Without your sacrifice, I'm guaranteed to have lived a different life without my wife and five kids, who are sitting back there," Nguyen said during the Memorial Day service in Bowling Green Monday morning.
Nguyen thanked American veterans, and two Australian veterans who attended the service - Tim Harris, from Whitehouse, who served in Iraq, and his father, Lloyd, visiting from his homeland, who served in Vietnam.
Though rain caused the annual parade to be canceled and the program to retreat to the Veterans Building in City Park, Nguyen said the weather should not keep Americans from remembering military men and women who died serving the nation. When called, they answered. "We saluted and did our duty," he said.
"It's still a gorgeous day to celebrate Memorial Day," he said.
The day, he said, is far more than a federal holiday. "It's a day of observance and remembrance."
And it's an opportunity for all Americans to "rededicate ourselves to our great country," Nguyen told the crowd.
"Our fallen comrades can neither taste the victory we savor, nor the lives that we live," he said. But they deserve respect.
"Our fallen comrades deserve to be remembered."
Those at the Memorial Day service did their best to show their respect, with many giving solemn salutes and placing wreaths for soldiers.
John Quinn, former Bowling Green mayor, talked about the origin of Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day, which began as a way to remember those killed in the Civil War. Quinn, a former history teacher at Bowling Green High School, said he taught for years that approximately 618,000 Americans died in the Civil War - 360,000 from the north, and 258,000 from the confederate states.
Research now shows that as many as 750,000 soldiers may have died in the war.
"That's a lot of sacrifice," Quinn said.
The exact start of Decoration Day, and the location in the north or south are unknown. But General John Logan, head of the Grand Army of the Republic after the Civil War, made the day of remembrance official when he issued the famous "Logan's Order," which Quinn read on Monday.
Current Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards followed by reading Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, originally read by the president in November of 1863.
For many in the audience Monday, the Memorial Day service is an annual way of saying thanks.
"We always come. It's a tradition," said Peter Wood, of Bowling Green. "My father was in the service."
"I think it's important to everyone in the country. A lot of people dislocated their lives and a lot of them died," serving the nation, Wood said.
This year, despite the rain, many filled the Veterans Building to pay their respects.
"I usually watch the parade to support the troops," said Wilma Kidd of Bowling Green. And a little rain wasn't going to dampen her dedication.
After all, many made the "supreme sacrifice," according to Herb Dettmer, master of ceremonies. "They paid the price for our life and freedom," he said. "May we always, always remember."

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