Thursday evening was a night filled with gratitude, tears and a love of country as Saline County hosted a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Day ceremony at the courthouse.
Hundreds of members of the community attended to show their support for veterans from around the state and the community.
Arkansas had 592 Veterans that were killed in action in the Vietnam War, including 10 veterans from Saline County.
The 592 Arkansan Veterans were remembered with 592 small flags spread across the courthouse lawn. Additionally the 10 Saline County veterans were remembered with 10 large flags across the courthouse lawn.
County Judge Matt Brumley opened the ceremony giving a passionate speech expressing his gratitude for the veterans and their service to the nation.
“If it weren’t for many of you, I wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms that we have. We wouldn’t be sitting on a memorial that pays tribute to some of those who gave it all,” said Brumley.
He asked the audience to thank veterans for their service.
“Do not forget to tell them thank you,” said Brumley. “Today is just a small semblance of the appreciate that I have, so many of our community members, so many of our city leaders, mayors,justices of the peace, city council members, members of all military auxiliary said were going to do something and were going to do it right. This is our first one and we’re going to do it right.”
After Brumley’s the audience was led in prayer. During the presentation of colors, the Benton High School choir sang the national anthem.
Brumley then introduced a veteran and Assistant Benton Police Chief Jeff Besancon to the audience. Besancon spoke on what service meant to him.
“I see a lot of veterans here, thank you for being here tonight. Thank you to any veteran family that happens to be here tonight as well,” said Besancon. “Even though I was in the military I was never in a war, so I can’t imagine the anxiety knowing that you are going thousands of miles away to fight a war. Then getting to Vietnam, how you handled that, the culture shock and then the horror that come with a war. All the while trying to main your dignity and your humaneness. What made it even worse was that a lot of people in this country did not like the war. Unfortunately, these people took their frustrations out on you.”
Four quilts of Valor were presented to Vietnam veterans during the ceremony, Retired U.S. Petty Officer Tom Woodall, Retired U.S. Army First Lieutenant Richard Bondurant, Retired U.S. Air Force E-4 Charles Bruce Turek and Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Willie McIntosh.