By Kevin Fleming, ASC Public AffairsMarch 29, 2016
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- About 180 Quad-Cities area residents, local political leaders and military leaders attended the annual National Vietnam Veterans Day Commemorative Service in Heritage Hall, here, March 26.
The event honored the sacrifices of the 58,000 U.S. military personnel who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. Volunteers read the names of approximately 200 Vietnam veterans from the Quad-Cities area.
Maj. Gen. Kevin O'Connell, commanding general, U.S. Army Sustainment Command, provided comments in his role as the senior mission commander at Rock Island Arsenal. Speaking to the families of Vietnam veterans, O'Connell said it is important to recognize their own sacrifices.
"We appreciate the selfless sacrifices that you have made in supporting your veterans for the months and years during the Vietnam War," he said. "And then for decades as they returned to civilian life… Any Soldier will tell you that the support of their families is of utmost importance."
The ceremony included a specific recognition of Army Spc. Gale Kurk Vogler, a Quad-Cities area veteran who died in Vietnam. He was killed in action while serving with the 9th Infantry Division on March 11, 1967.
Gale's mother, Marge Vogler, and his daughter, Ann Renea Hos, were among the family members who attended the event. Ann was born two months after her father was killed.
Jim Hixson, a friend of the Vogler family and a veteran, spoke about the family's loss.
"The bereft mother, the father now dead, the brothers and sisters, the daughter not yet born who will never know her dad -- they are all casualties of the Vietnam War. Their losses will never be reflected or engraved on a granite wall in Washington, D.C.," he said.
"Today we acknowledge your pain, your heartbreak, your sorrow, your sacrifice," said Hixson while speaking to the family.
Illinois state Sen. Neil Anderson presented the Vogler family with a shadow box containing Gale's various awards and decorations, which included the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal.
Following the indoors ceremony, attendees moved outside where members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 299 presented the Vogler family with a folded American flag. Chapter 299 hosted the event.
U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois also spoke during the event, and she explained why she thinks it is important to honor Vietnam veterans.
"They put it all on the line for us, for our country, and they made sacrifices that most of us truly can never understand," she said. "That's what matters, and that's why I am here today, to show my appreciation -- to honor the lives of those we lost in the Vietnam War."
Lt. Gen. Michael Tucker, commanding general, First U.S. Army, said he thinks America has come a long way in showing respect for Vietnam Veterans.
"We all know the frustrations Americans had over the Vietnam War, and it was taken out on the veterans who were drafted to serve their country," he said, continuing that he thinks following Desert Storm and 9/11, respect for veterans has improved.
"Today, great strides have been made to demonstrate the proper respect and appreciation for the sacrifices and dedication these veterans displayed," he said.
Col. Elmer Speights, commander, Rock Island Garrison, gave opening comments at the ceremony and welcomed all attendees.
"We need to ensure that these people know the memory of their loved ones will be carried on and not forgotten, and that their sacrifices will be honored," he said. "Future Americans of every race, creed, color, will maintain the tradition of defending our nation no matter what the cost."
The master of ceremony for the event was William "Bill" Albracht, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran. Albright was awarded three Silver Stars and was the youngest Green Beret captain in Vietnam at 21 years old.
Members of the local Patriot Guard Riders attended the event. The Patriot Guard held American flags while standing around the perimeter.
Other notable attendees included: Melanie Johnson, executive director, U.S. Army Contracting Command-Rock Island; Mayor John Thodos, East Moline, Illinois; and Mayor Scott Raes, Moline, Illinois.