Vietnam veteran Chris Lambert of the U.S. Marine Corps summed up his Memorial Day message in one word: “awareness.”
The Wounded Warrior member, who started a program that helps veterans readjust to everyday life after they leave military service, said it’s time for combat veterans to start talking about their war experiences and to stop keeping these to themselves. He was not just talking about other veterans; he was also talking about himself.
“We need to do this. We need to share,” he said.
The recipient of three Purple Heart medals awarded after he was wounded in Vietnam, Lambert came home to a hostile reception after the unpopular war.
“After I buried my best friend (who served with him in Vietnam), I never put on my uniform again, and I ignored the veterans,” said Lambert during his speech that was interrupted several times when he was overwhelmed with emotion.
“I won’t let that happen again,” said Lambert who openly thanked Pastor Mike Dillman, the force behind the annual Memorial Day events at Woodward Park.
“He lit a fire under me last year,” Lambert said of Dillman who also served in the Vietnam War.
In his speech, Lambert noted the actress Jane Fonda who famously opposed the Vietnam War angering many in the process, and the “people who spat on the Vietnam veterans returning home” from the unpopular and highly political war.
“We fought for your freedom to do that,” Lambert pointed out.
One way to honor those coming home from military service and those who gave their life for their country is by taking part in events such as the Memorial Day observance at the cemetery, Lambert said. To those who attended the event on Monday, he said, “You’re here. You’re showing that you care.”
Other highlights of the roughly hour-long program were the acknowledgement of the Gold Star mothers and fathers and Blue Star mothers and fathers by VFW Post 6311 Auxiliary president Veronica Reyes, and the traditional laying of the wreaths by the auxiliary groups of the VFW and the American Legion, and the Manteca Happy Wheelers. VFW Post 6311 Chaplain Marcus Weigel led both the invocation and the benediction. VFW Post 6311 Commander Rodney Sevedge served as the master of ceremonies. Posting the colors were the combined JROTC members of Manteca High and East Union. Former Manteca Idol winner Cheyenne Milligan sang the National Anthem and Lee Greenwood’s patriotic song, “God Bless the USA.”
The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun-salute by members of the VFW Post 6311 and American Legion Post 249 of Manteca, followed by the playing of the “Taps” by Rodney McCleary of the American Legion Post 249.