Vietnam vets honor comrades in arms
LE MARS — Forty-two members of the Vietnam Veterans Last Man’s Club gathered Saturday, Nov. 12, for their 23rd annual banquet at the American Legion Club in Le Mars.
The veterans, along with spouses and friends, spent their time visiting, catching up on things they had done in the past year, and even reminisced about their time in the service during the Vietnam War era.
Wayne Theiman, who has served as commander of the group for 20 years, led the group in a time of remembrance of their fellow comrades.
“This moment is sacred with the almost visible presence of the ones who have gone before. We come to honor the memory of those who offered life and service for God and Country, those who have now enrolled in that great spirit army whose footfalls cause no sound. But in our memory, their souls go marching on. Proudly we remember their service in time of war. Because of them, our lives are free, because of them, our Nation lives, because of them the world is blessed. May the ceremonies of today deepen our reverence for our honored comrades and friends.
“Let us not enshroud their memory with thoughts of sorrow. Tears or words of sympathy cannot bring back the comfort of those loving hands or the music of voices stilled. The solemn pride of that service is theirs, and for the living to remember.
“Legionnaires and friends, let us here pledge ourselves anew to united service, to consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by a devotion to mutual helpfulness in the protection of those left behind.”
He continued, “We realize how futile mere words are to express our deep and abiding sympathy in our loss. May you feel our comrades are at rest, and in endless peace. Generation after generation, all the shadowy peoples of the past have lived as we live, perplexed and mystified by death. They have gone into the Great Beyond with hearts filled with wistful longing, as all must go.
“Surely there is an afterlife for all who have been loyal and true, a life to which light and peace shall come, where the burden shall be lifted and the heartache shall cease, where the love, the hope and the fulfillment that escape us here shall be given to us, to be ours forever,” he said.
With that, he asked those attending to stand and pay homage to their 34 deceased comrades: David Dreckman (1998); Jerome Konz (2003); Michael Lubben (2004); David Thieman (2004); Steve Ehrig (2004); Steven Ernst (2004); Ronald Geiger (2007); George Spain (2008); Donald Galles (2009); Gordon Phipps (2010); Steven Brodie (2010); Ronald Mullally (2011); Robert Helwig (2011); Roy Bakalyar (2013); Thomas Baack (2015); Virgil Kleve (2015); Gary Roepke (2015); Kenneth Oostinink (2016); Donald Schultz (2016); Larry Woll (2016); Jules Smith (2016); Dennis Renken (2017); Wendell Johnson (2017); Michael Stanton (2017); Alan Olson (2018); Lawrence Hanno (2018); Douglas Hirstein (2018); Gregory Andersen (2018); Curtis Moodie (2020); Larry Ufken (2020); Lawrence Rolfes (2021); Glenn Hamann (2021); Allen Willett (2021); and Thomas Britt (2022).
“We stand here today and toast your memory. You are not forgotten,” he said.
In another remembrance, member Jim Rolfes conducted the “Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony.” The table is reserved for those missing comrades who never returned home from their military service.
During the business meeting portion of the evening, Thieman said he was stepping down after 20 years as commander, secretary/treasurer of the club. In response to his request for someone to take over the duties, Merlin Schipper raised his hand, and the group voted to have Schipper as the new commander. As commander, he will keep club records of members and send out invitations to the group’s annual banquet.
The banquet is always slated for the Saturday nearest to Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11. The 2023 banquet will be held on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Eligible membership in the Plymouth County Vietnam Veterans Last Man’s Club is open to any person, male or female, who is a member of the American Legion or VFW and who has served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, or was a member of the American Red Cross, during the period of Dec. 22, 1961 through May 7, 1975.