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Annual veterans breakfast: ‘You guys are all heroes through and through'

By David Barr

davidbarr@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 11/8/17

More than 40 years later, Jim Manfred still can recall that rainy night in Vietnam. He was headed to safety, avoiding 20 mm enemy rounds when he passed a vehicle that was carrying two soldiers who …

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Annual veterans breakfast: ‘You guys are all heroes through and through'

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More than 40 years later, Jim Manfred still can recall that rainy night in Vietnam. He was headed to safety, avoiding 20 mm enemy rounds when he passed a vehicle that was carrying two soldiers who were scheduled to return to the United States the next day. 

Manfred made it to safety. The other two did not, joining the tens of thousands of United States soldiers lost or killed in action in Vietnam.

“That’s something you don’t forget,” Manfred said of seeing those soldiers pass by him on his way to safety. 

Friday morning, Manfred and 135 other Vietnam veterans, along with 104 veterans of other wars the United States has fought in, from all branches of the military, were honored and thanked for their efforts and service at a special breakfast and recognition ceremony hosted by state Rep. Thomas Mehaffie at the Lower Swatara Fire Department. 

Manfred finished his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1972, the same year he concluded his four-year stint in the Navy, which included time in Vietnam from 1971-1972. Upon his return home, he says he wasn’t spit on or confronted as many Vietnam vets were, but there wasn’t any fanfare either. 

Manfred volunteered to enlist in the Navy after spending some time in college, admitting that he had had enough with schooling and figured he could complete his education on the GI Bill after he had been discharged.

“I thought that was a better way to go,” Manfred said, of enlisting in the military rather than staying with school. Upon returning, he initially settled in the Midwest before feeling a sense of “responsibility to come back here and be around family.”

The 136 were presented with a Vietnam Veteran lapel pin. The pin was blue with a bald eagle in front of red and white stripes and a blue field with six stars. The six stars represented the six nations along with the United States that were involved in the war — Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, and Thailand. Surrounding all of that was a laurel wreath and on the back were the words: A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You. The pins were presented to the veterans by Mehaffie, Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, adjutant general of Pennsylvania, and Command Sgt. Maj. Harry J. Buchanan III.

If you reside in the 106th Legislative District and are a Vietnam veteran who did not attend the breakfast but would like a pin, call Mehaffie’s Hershey office at 717-534-1323.

Carrelli, the keynote speaker, remarked that when soldiers returned home from World War II, they were welcomed back with open arms.

“Vietnam vets did not have that. They had to fight for some respect,” Carrelli said, adding that in fighting for respect, they fought to ensure that future veterans would never be subjected to the treatment they suffered upon returning to American soil.

“We owe that era of veterans so much,” Carrelli said.

Manfred has been attending this breakfast event for the last four to five years “to honor those who couldn’t be here” since they gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s not about me, it’s about them,” Manfred said.

This was the first year Mehaffie was the host, taking over for his predecessor in the House, John Payne. 

“When I was going door to door in the 106th District last year, the No. 1 question I was asked was, ‘Are you going to continue doing the veterans breakfast every year?’ Mehaffie said in a news release to the Press & Journal. 

Mehaffie said this event has been occurring for over a decade, but wasn’t sure exactly when it began.

There was one thing he was sure about, however.

“This is a tribute to all of you. You guys are all heroes through and through,” Mehaffie said.

Like Manfred, Edward Loughran also entered military duty because he was tired of school. However, he was drafted into the Army in the 25th Infantry Division and served in Vietnam from 1968-1969, during the time of the Tet Offensive.

He described Vietnam as “hot” and “nasty” and that would result in sudden weather changes. Being in the 25th Infantry Division, he was involved in the fighting action, which he said was “scary”, but the more time he spent there, the more he became used to the situation.

“It didn’t make you less scared, it made you more adaptable,” Loughran said. 

He too didn’t have too bad an experience returning home, mostly just getting the occasional question as to why he wanted to go to Vietnam, but he simply responded that he had been drafted and didn’t have a choice in the matter.

“I was proud of what I did over there. I’m proud that we’re finally being recognized. I’m glad somebody’s doing something for all veterans,” Loughran said.

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