I've been enjoying Nevada Day parades for 50 years but yesterday's was special because it honored our servicemen and women, and their families. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for risking their lives to keep us free, and we should never forget the sacrifices they've made for their fellow Americans.
I attended the opening of the Traveling Vietnam Wall Exhibit at Mills Park on Thursday afternoon and was reminded of the many brave Carsonites who fought in that chaotic and controversial war so far from home. Fortunately, I was able to thank three of those heroes for their service to our country when I met with them last week.
Mayor Bob Crowell, my erudite friend Karl Neathammer and Rick Arnold, president of the 65-member Carson Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, invited me to coffee and I was honored to join them. They wanted to send a message to their fellow veterans: "The Vietnam Wall Exhibit gives us an opportunity to reach out to our comrades who are still dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other war-related issues," Arnold told me. "Our comrades are not alone; we're here for them." You can phone him at (775) 720-3907.
Arnold and Neathammer were Army paratroopers while my friend and fellow prostate cancer survivor, Mayor Bob, served on a Navy gunship in support of the ground troops. He met his wife of 40 years, Susan, in San Francisco as he was preparing to ship out to Vietnam. Neathammer, who was badly wounded in a firefight, almost lost an arm and a leg, but survived thanks to excellent medical care and his iron will to survive.
"Today, I'm in the company of heroes," he said, with a nod to his comrades. "We're still here. This is our time." All three of these heroes rebuilt their lives after traumatic experiences in a much-maligned war. Neathammer recalled what an anti-war bartender told him after he had spent several months in a military hospital: "We don't want your kind in here." And our gentlemanly Mayor Bob will never forget being called a "baby killer."
"But we overcame those challenges and became contributing members of society," Neathammer declared. All three of them said the Traveling Vietnam Wall Exhibit brings back powerful memories of the 50,000-plus brave men and women who lost their lives in Vietman. "We carry the torch for them and for future veterans, and want to make sure they're never forgotten," Neathammer said.
These local veterans never discuss politics when they get together with their fellow vets. "There are no differences of any kind in the midst of a firefight," Neathammer observed, "and there are no atheists in the foxhole."
"I found out who I was during the war," Mayor Bob added. "We matured quickly."
I salute Bob, Karl and Rick for their selfless service to our country, and was proud to spend time with them last week. Be sure to say a prayer for these heroes and their fellow veterans when you visit the Vietnam Wall Exhibit in Mills Park today.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, is a U.S. Air Force veteran.