FAIRMONT - In the midst of a busy Saturday afternoon at Walmart, a small ceremony was held in honor of Veteran's Day, with a specific focus on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
"We got notice from headquarters that they wanted us to recognize the 50th anniversary of Vietnam," said Jan Hybbert, an employee of Walmart and an associate liaison for a local Vietnam veterans group.
Along with the ceremony, the store is accepting donations of items for soldiers currently serving, along with old cell phone donations.
Veterans Dave Radunz (from left), Scott Phillips and Art Elliott prepare to present the color guard during a Veteran’s Day program Saturday at Walmart afternoon. The store is also sponsoring several collections and donations for veterans.
"They don't have to be in working order," Hybbert explained. "They're taken apart and use the components."
During the ceremony, several shoppers stopped to watch, putting their hands over their heart as "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung, and applauding a performance of "God Bless the USA," both performed by retired Air National Guard Col. Julie Elliott.
"Martin County had the highest number of soldiers go to Vietnam per capita," Hybbert said as she shared some other statistics about Vietnam. "There are 58,267 names now listed on the polished black wall. They are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us. It's been 37 years since the last casualties, although I don't entirely agree. Vietnam to me is the war that keeps on taking because of Agent Orange."
Hybbert cited that the largest age group of soldiers to die were 18 years old. Nearly 40,000 of the soldiers killed were age 22 or younger. One soldier, Pfc. Dan Bullock, was only 15.
Some families lost more than one loved one to the war, with 31 sets of brothers, and three sets of fathers and sons listed.
"For most Americans, they only see the numbers, but to those who survived the war and the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain those numbers created. ... They were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. There are no noble wars, just noble warriors."
The ongoing collection of items for soldiers will continue until Friday. A list of acceptable donations is available at the drop site in front of the store.
"Anything we can do for the soldiers and the veterans is worth it," Hybbert said.