Vietnam-Era Vets Honored Aboard ‘Viking Neptune’
September 27, 2023 | By Gary Copsey
My wife, Teresita, and I were on the 2022-2023 Viking World Cruise aboard the ‘Viking Neptune.’ We ran into an Army couple who was interested in AFA’s Vietnam 50th Anniversary Commemoration. Before we left home in Texas, we had attended an event with the Alamo AFA Chapter in San Antonio where we presented Vietnam-era veterans with a commemorative pin. Teresita and I thought it would be a splendid idea to bring the leftover 47 pins to present to any Vietnam vets we met during our cruise.
At our first Veterans gathering on the ‘Neptune,’ we got a general feel for how many Vietnam-era veterans we had on board and presented the idea of having some sort of ceremony to recognize them. We learned we had more than 100 vets on board, and many served in Vietnam.
I contacted an AFA 50th Anniversary Commemorative Partner in Virginia to ask for additional pins. The Association came through like champs and delivered all the additional pins we requested (and more) to a FedEx location in Los Angeles, where we were in port for two days.
The ‘Viking Neptune’ staff worked closely with us, letting us use the ship’s theater, piano, and AV equipment for the first event on March 7. We were fortunate to have former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Mike Ryan, a former A-10 pilot and retired Colonel, on board to serve as our Master of Ceremonies, and retired Navy Vice Admiral Dick Gallagher, former Top Gun Commanding Officer, to give the remarks.
The ceremony was held off the coast of Vietnam as we approached Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Susie Chen, the daughter of a former Chinese General who served under Chiang Kai-shek in the 1940s, sang the National Anthem, and was accompanied on the piano by her husband, Michael. The invocation and pledge of allegiance were conducted by retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Bass.
With around 400 people in attendance, it was quite an event. Twelve more people came forward after the ceremony and identified themselves as Vietnam-era veterans, which led us to set up a smaller, second event on March 28.
Many aboard the Viking Neptune who either observed the ceremony or heard of it were very appreciative that we did this to recognize those who, in President Barack Obama’s words, “were often blamed for a war you didn’t start when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor.”