Vietnam vets honored with breakfast

March 30, 2019

For those that had the good fortune to return home from the Vietnam War, many were the targets of scorn and contempt or just indifference, but now their sacrifices are honored and recognized widely.

Such was the case Friday at the London Bridge Resort in Lake Havasu City where hundreds of veterans from Vietnam and the Korean wars and their family members were feted with a breakfast in their honor.

“Today, 46 years ago, March 29, 1973, the last of the U.S. troops left Vietnam and we proudly proclaim it Vietnam Veterans Day,” Mayor Cal Sheehy said. “Six hundred twenty-one Arizonans died there and we remember and recognize their sacrifice including those who did come home.”

The breakfast began with a presentation of colors by the Lake Havasu City Marine Corps League detachment, as well as the singing of the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, and the playing of “Taps.

Disabled American Veterans, Lake Havasu chapter, Senior Vice Commander Jack Howe, spoke on behalf of chapter Chaplain Sisto Sandoval, who is recovering from a recent heart attack.

“Sisto had bypass surgery and we wish him the best and a speedy recovery,” Howe said.

City court judge Mitch Kalauli, who created the first rural veterans court in Arizona with the help of former Mayor Mark Nexsen, and a veteran of the U.S. Army, spoke of the Hawaiian word “Imua,” which means to “keep moving forward with purpose.”

“Martin Luther King said to keep moving forward, but for us, we took it a bit further, moving forward with a purpose,” Judge Kalauli said. “I love to share my joy of life with all of you who have served our country.”

The judge also spoke of how much fellow soldiers meant to each other.

“When you serve in combat, what really matters is that person next to you. It’s why you keep going,” Kalauli said. “Thank you for coming home and not giving up.”

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, who was a Gunnery Sgt. in the U.S. Marines in the late 1970s, was more forceful with his words.

“I still don’t like hearing about how we lost the Vietnam War,” Borelli said. “You didn’t lose the war, the politicians lost the war with their decisions. “Your legacy is the leadership and courage you displayed and still do.

“We came home older, wiser and less innocent, but with a greater appreciation of our freedoms here.”

Actor and comedian Tim Colceri, an Ohio native who grew up in Phoenix, also spoke briefly and comically.

Colceri enlisted in the Marines when he was 18 and served in Vietnam, spending more than a year in Da Nang.

The city event is produced by a committee of various veteran organizations. Lake Havasu City is a Vietnam War Commemorative Partner and has been since 2013.

Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 928-453-4237 or sshindledecker@havasunews.com.