Hometown Heroes: Vietnam War veterans to be honored

National Vietnam War Veterans Day
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 6:16 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Vietnam veterans returning home to Southwest Louisiana weren’t welcomed with ticker tape parades and celebrations. While the political climate against the war wasn’t as strong here, many quietly returned to life in the Lake Area. Hawthorn Nathaniel Sapp served 2 tours of duty in Vietnam and saw action as a rifleman.

“Just trying to make it through the bee hive, I called it,” recalled Sapp. “No one knew which was coming and which was going with real bullets coming at you. But most of the guys I went there with came back home.”

Michael Kuk was a combat firefighter when he arrived in the country in 1969.

“We were not a group that stayed in the fire station,” said Kuk. “We had other missions. We were also fire people. In other words, we made napalm and we went out on burning missions. I mean, anything we could do to thwart Viet Cong in particular.”

At a time when a lot of young men were avoiding the draft, Robert Foster signed up to be a Marine.

“I was an artillery scout observer,” said Foster. “So I was way up forward of the front lines, I guess you would call it. I had to call in some artillery, just to block them from overrunning. It was a challenging time.”

Dwight Bertrand had a distinguished career in the Air Force. His specialty was in nuclear weaponry.

“Vietnam was going on and my father, who was a World War 2 veteran, insisted that I serve,” said Bertrand.”It was during the cold war.”

Ralph Derouen wasn’t drafted. He signed up for the Marines at the height of the war.

“When you’re over there, you can’t think of home, you think of yourself, number one,” said Derouen. “To stay alive, you gotta think of yourself. Anybody tell you they’re not scared, they’re crazy.”

Vietnam War veterans will be honored and remembered on Saturday, March 25, 2023, at 10 a.m. in Veterans Memorial Park on Lakeshore Drive. In case of rain, the ceremony will be moved to the American Legion Post 1 home at 1530 9th St. in Lake Charles.