Metro-East News

Local leaders to recognize Vietnam vets Saturday in Belleville

Local leaders will hold a ceremony Saturday in Belleville to honor and remember those who served in the Vietnam War.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, will be the keynote speaker, according to St. Clair County Board member Jerry Dinges, the board’s liaison to the county’s Veterans Assistance Commission.

“It’s going to be at noon on the southeast quadrant of the Belleville Public Square at the war memorial,” Dinges said. “We’d like to make this an annual event.”

Kurt Daesch, superintendent of the St. Clair County Veterans Assistance Commission, said this will be the third consecutive year for the ceremony, which includes the reading of a proclamation.

“It’s a way to provide a little better closure for the people who served during the war,” Daesch said.

Daesch said 2015 is an important anniversary for the war. U.S. participation began in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in November 1955. The war came to an end in April 1975 when the U.S. Navy conducted a helicopter evacuation of the last handful of Americans just prior to the fall of Saigon.

A total of 58,286 Americans were killed or declared missing in action during the Vietnam War. More than 60 percent of them were 21 or younger. A total of 303,704 were wounded including about 75,000 who were classified as “severely disabled.”

According to the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, 2,709,918 American’s participated in the war effort. The peak of American troop strength was 543,482 reached on April 30, 1968.