Maj. Gen. Rita Aragon (retired) pins Navy veteran Eddie Roach during a past Vietnam War era ceremony at the Oklahoma History Center Museum. Both are VillagesOKC members.

By Marilyn Olson, Executive Director, VillagesOKC

March 29 will be a full day of celebration and commemoration for VillagesOKC members. It’s National Vietnam Veterans Day, and two major events will fill the day. A morning ceremony at the Oklahoma History Center Museum will honor all Vietnam-era veterans. An afternoon ceremony at Del City High School will recognize the character and sacrifice of 1st Lt. James Robert Kalsu.
VillagesOKC is partnering with the Oklahoma History Center Museum, the local offices of Humana, Oklahoma Warriors Honor Flight, the Force 50 Foundation and Navigating Medicare to host a pinning ceremony honoring all the servicemen and servicewomen, active or reservists, who served anywhere in the world during the Vietnam War-era. Each will receive a lapel pin inscribed with “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”
The event will be held in the Devon Great Hall of the museum 10 a.m. to noon, with the doors opening at 9:00 a.m. This event is free and open to the public.
At 1 p.m. that afternoon, a larger-than-life monument to Kalsu will be unveiled at the Del City High School stadium which bears his name. At 1:30 p.m. in the Del City Performing Arts Center there will be a Vietnam-Era Veteran pinning ceremony and premier of the documentary “Uncommon Character – the Legacy of James Robert Kalsu.”
Kalsu was a stand-out student and Del City High School football star, an All-American at the University of Oklahoma, and Rookie of the Year for the Buffalo Bills, who became the only active professional athlete killed in action in the Vietnam War.
“If our children and grandchildren are to truly value the freedoms we have, it will be experiencing events like this where men and women are honored for their character and selfless acts of valor,” said VillagesOKC Executive Director Marilyn Olson. “VillagesOKC values our veterans and intends to continue finding ways to honor them.”
According to a release from the museum: “March 29 was designated as Vietnam Veterans Day by the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, to be commemorated with annual nationwide events. Guided by the stipulations in that act, only Vietnam War veterans and their families are recognized. However, the Vietnam War Commemoration organization is providing recognition pins to honor any US veteran who served on active duty or in the reserves in the US Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, Vietnam or elsewhere. Family members of any veteran unable to be present may also receive this pin.”
The keynote speaker will be Colonel “Chuck” DeBellevue who has been deemed “Ace of Aces;” one of only five to achieve that status from downing six North Vietnamese MiGs. Altogether, he logged 550 combat hours while flying 220 combat missions; 96 over Vietnam. His decorations include the Air Force Cross, three Silver Stars, three Legions of Merit, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, eighteen Air Medals and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Device. In 2012, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame and received the Congressional Gold Medal.