Terri Baske, left, shakes Rep. Derek Kilmer’s hand during a ceremony to honor Vietnam War veterans Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Baske’s father-in-law served two tours in Vietnam. Her late husband also served. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Terri Baske, left, shakes Rep. Derek Kilmer’s hand during a ceremony to honor Vietnam War veterans Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Baske’s father-in-law served two tours in Vietnam. Her late husband also served. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Kilmer helps honor Vietnam veterans on war’s 50th anniversary

  • Thu Aug 30th, 2018 5:25am
  • News

ELMA — Vietnam veterans from across Grays Harbor County converged on the Elma Fraternal Order of Eagles hall for a welcome and thank you more than 50 years in the making. One that many people consider long overdue.

More than 60 veterans and their families, and many fond and difficult memories, filled the room Wednesday, Aug. 22. Pictures were taken, hugs were exchanged.

What drew the veterans there is part of the 13-year commemoration of the Vietnam War, which began Memorial Day 2012 and runs through Veterans Day 2025. President Barack Obama’s proclamation in May 2012 set the dates. The commemoration was established in a 2008 law signed by President George W. Bush.

On Wednesday, Elma Mayor Jim Sorensen addressed the crowd.

“Fifty years seems like a long time, but for those of you who served, 50 years seems like yesterday,” Sorensen said.

“Last night,” somebody from the audience replied.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor of Washington’s 6th Congressional District, gave a short speech.

Then Sorensen began calling names; Kilmer began shaking hands.

Men; women; sons, daughters and widows of vets. As each veteran’s name was called out, they or a family member would make their way up to the front of the room to Kilmer.

He would greet them, thank them for their service and sacrifice, talk with each briefly, and present them with a pin. It was a small act, but it held great meaning for all involved.

“This brings back great memories of when the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial came,” Bill Wickwire said of the time about five years ago when veterans from across Western Washington visited the traveling memorial in Elma.

Terri Bakse of Elma was their for her father in law and her late husband.

William E. Bakse Sr. retired after a 32-year career as a command sergeant major.

“My father-in-law served two tours in Vietnam,” Terri Bakse said.

“Bill Sr. deserved this this,” she said of the pin on her chest.

Her husband, William E. Bakse Jr., was an career officer. “He spent his time in the United States, Europe and the Middle East,” Terri Bakse said.

There were tears shed.

“I can’t talk right now,” Sorensen said after the ceremony, emotions overtaking him.

In total, 63 pins were presented to veterans or their family members.

The ceremony was the first of its kind for Kilmer. He likely will be conducting many more across the Olympic Peninsula.

More than 58,000 Americans were killed in action, 300,000 were wounded in action, and 1,700 are still missing in action, Kilmer said.

“50 years on, we’re here to say something you didn’t hear enough 50 years ago,” he said. “And that’s thank you, on behalf of your country, on behalf of your community and as your representative. I personally want to say thank you.”

“We say thank you for serving our nation. We say thanks for giving your all. We say we are proud of you and grateful to you. And your service was not in vain.

“It is our duty to make sure that future generations know of your sacrifice and that you are not forgotten for it.”

 

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor with his back to camera, addresses the overflow crowd of Vietnam veterans and their families during a ceremony to honor Vietnam vets Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor with his back to camera, addresses the overflow crowd of Vietnam veterans and their families during a ceremony to honor Vietnam vets Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Michael Lang |
                                 twin harbors newspaper group
                                Rep. Derek Kilmer

Michael Lang | twin harbors newspaper group Rep. Derek Kilmer

Rep. Derek Kilmer, right, presented 63 pins to Vietnam War veterans and their family members during a ceremony to honor Vietnam vets Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Rep. Derek Kilmer, right, presented 63 pins to Vietnam War veterans and their family members during a ceremony to honor Vietnam vets Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

A 2008 law established the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War by the U.S. Department of Defense. Part of that event is a lapel pin to be presented to Vietnam War veterans or their family members. The front of the pin reads “Vietnam War Veteran.” “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You” is printed on the back side. Rep. Derek Kilmer visited Elma on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, and handed out 63 of the pins. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

A 2008 law established the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War by the U.S. Department of Defense. Part of that event is a lapel pin to be presented to Vietnam War veterans or their family members. The front of the pin reads “Vietnam War Veteran.” “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You” is printed on the back side. Rep. Derek Kilmer visited Elma on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, and handed out 63 of the pins. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Elma Mayor Jim Sorensen, center holding papers and microphone, calls out the names of Vietnam War veterans or their family members during a ceremony Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at the Fraternal Order of Eagles hall in Elma. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Elma Mayor Jim Sorensen, center holding papers and microphone, calls out the names of Vietnam War veterans or their family members during a ceremony Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, at the Fraternal Order of Eagles hall in Elma. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Bill Wickwire, right, shakes hands with Rep. Derek Kilmer during a ceremony to honor Vietnam vets Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Wickwire is the Veterans of Foreign Wars District 5 commander. He is with the Elma Post 1948. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette

Bill Wickwire, right, shakes hands with Rep. Derek Kilmer during a ceremony to honor Vietnam vets Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Elma. Wickwire is the Veterans of Foreign Wars District 5 commander. He is with the Elma Post 1948. Photo by Michael Lang, The Vidette