By Travis Gettys
Northern Kentucky veterans say they are honored by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Eden Park but, for some, the gratitude is tempered with lingering resentment over treatment of soldiers returning from that war.
"To me, it's a sign of appreciation and respect," said John P. Williams Jr. of Newport, who served more than a year in Vietnam.
Williams enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1967 after finishing law school at the University of Cincinnati, and volunteered for the infantry.
"I thought it was important to serve," he said.
Williams, former president of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, attends services at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial every year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
"November 11 is a special day, and that is a special place," Williams said.
"It's a peaceful place, (and) it allows you to reflect on those who didn't come home."
Groups from Northern Kentucky were among the many entities that helped get the memorial built in Eden Park, said Earl Correll.
"All the veterans groups contributed," Correll said.
Phyllis Owens of Florence attended the memorial's 1984 dedication with her late husband, retired Gen. Thurman Owens, who served 34 years in the Marine Corps, including two tours of duty in Vietnam.
"I'm sure it stirred emotions for him," she said.
"When the boys came home from Vietnam, they were spat upon and treated very badly," Owens said. "Having the memorial, I think, is great for them."
Curtis N. Johnson of Covington, who served in Vietnam during 1972 and 1973 after quitting high school and joining the Navy, said Sunday's dedication will be his first visit to the memorial.
"I got out (of the service) in February and my high school class didn't graduate until June," Johnson said. "I was an 18-year-old Vietnam vet."
Johnson said he's bitter over treatment he received when he came home. He said he was cursed and had bottles thrown at him.
Johnson said he has driven past the memorial in Cincinnati but regularly goes to a memorial erected by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 88, of which he's a member, in Erlanger at Commonwealth Avenue and Dixie Highway. It is the only Vietnam veterans memorial in Northern Kentucky, he said.
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