Nonprofit working to take Vietnam vets to D.C. memorial
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - A local nonprofit, Get Wet for a Vet, is raising money to take a group of Vietnam veterans to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. ABC 57's Jess Arnold is following their journey from start to finish.
The organization hosted its first interview session Sunday, February 18 at the VFW in Mishawaka to recruit vets for the trip.
Many who showed up can still remember the feeling of being drafted for the "war no one wanted to talk about."
“It’s kind of frightening--thinking I wasn’t going to come back with a lot of the guys that were there, to a war that we thought we shouldn’t be there," said Vietnam Army Veteran, Gary Lemley.
A lot of folks back at home felt that way, too, refusing to fly the flag with pride, when the war-weary soldiers returned.
“I was just a little tiny kid at that point in time, but always I can recall in the news, it wasn’t a pleasant coming home," said trip coordinator, Jim Metherd.
An Army vet (not Marine as it says in the video) himself, Metherd asked the nonprofit to help him finally give his Vietnam "brothers in arms" the welcome they deserved with a trip to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in D.C.
“This could be life-changing for some. That’s what I want to see. I want to be able to give some sort of closure," said Metherd.
“I decided to take a chance and see if I get selected. Hopefully it will be better than getting drafted," said Vietnam Navy Veteran, Neil Brioli, laughing.
His ticket to the wall is a one-page application, saying what it would mean to him to see it.
“I’d probably be in tears. I have four classmates that are on the wall and various acquaintances that I have met through my career," said Brioli.
“A lot of us guys can’t afford to go, like physically drive there, you know," said Lemley.
So he says it's great to have community members say they'll foot the bill.
On Saturday, the Marine Riders of Michiana dropped off a check for $1,000.
They may not have been to Vietnam, but the riders know what war is, bringing a camaraderie veterans say no one else can understand.
That's why this group wants to honor those who lost their lives to war together.
“For me to go there along with other vets, it just does something to your heart, you know, hey we’re home," said Lemley.
The next interview session will be at the Robert L. Miller Veterans Center on Saturday, February 24 from noon to 3 p.m.
Veterans just have to bring their DD-214s as proof of their service.
Representatives with Get Wet for a Vet want to remind the community that family members can also nominate their veteran relatives for the trip.
For more information, visit the nonprofit's website.
ABC 57's Jess Arnold will be traveling with the veterans to D.C. in August to share their stories live with viewers back home in Michiana.