Washington Square honors Vietnam vets; Weathersfield holds parade

U.S. Army Specialist Jacqueline Montgomery salutes Washington Square Nursing Home resident and U.S. Army veteran Thomas Smith, 70, of Youngstown, during a special veterans ceremony at the facility on Friday in honor of Flag Day. Smith served during the Vietnam War. Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith

WARREN — In honor of Flag Day, Vietnam-era veterans and others were honored during a “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans” ceremony Friday afternoon at Washington Square Nursing Home.

“We are so appreciative to the Vietnam veterans not only because of what they did while fighting in that war, but for what many of them experienced when they returned home,” Theresa Bartlett, CEO of Washington Square Nursing Home, said. “Many took what may have been negative situations and turned that energy into fighting for veteran benefits that helped themselves, but also other veterans.”

Washington Square Nursing Home, 202 Washington St. NW, is the only Veterans Administration-approved skilled nursing home provider in Trumbull County.

Murray Carter, 70, of Youngstown, who now lives at the nursing home, was drafted into the Marine Corps in 1967 and served through 1969. He was trained on the M-60 machine gun.

While in Vietnam, Carter was wounded on two separate occasions, and received a Purple Heart for each shrapnel wound he received.

“The first time, I was wounded while going in to pull out an officer who was pinned in,” Carter said. “I was hit in the left leg.”

The second time, Carter described being hit by shrapnel in his right ankle when his unit was sent to fight on Hill 55.

He spent the next few months recovering from his wound. When he returned home, Carter worked for U.S. Steel.

Thomas Smith, 70, of Youngstown, a U.S. Army veteran, moved into the nursing home on Friday. He said he volunteered to join the military in 1969 out of a sense of duty. Military service was a tradition in his family, with his grandfather, father, uncle and siblings all serving.

He was exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam, so he received 100 percent disability.

“Of course, at the time, we did not know what it was,” Smith said.

George J. Warren, also 70, volunteered to go into the Marine Corps in 1969 and served through 1971.

“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” Warren said. “I saw something on a television news program and thought they needed help, so I volunteered.”

He served in Vietnam for about eight months, he said.

“They were turning the Dong Ha Marine Base over to the South Vietnamese Army when I arrived,” Warren said.

Later, when he returned home, Warren worked as a Youngstown firefighter for about 10 years.

“I really appreciate what is being done here,” Warren said. “It makes you feel good they are willing to take care of veterans.”

Mineral Ridge resident Ken Lewis, 73, also a Marine Corps veteran, served from 1965 to 1969 and joined right after graduating from high school.

“I just felt a need to do my duty,” Lewis said. “We did not have others in my family that served in the military. I just felt a sense of responsibility.”

He earned a Purple Heart after a mortar round landed near him, killing one man near him and wounding him, he said. He was hit in his legs and side.

“I stayed and continued fighting,” Lewis said.

When he returned to the United States, Lewis worked as a deputy sheriff in Trumbull County for about eight years, before leaving law enforcement and working at Packard Electric for nearly 30 years.

Robert Rieser, 69, who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army from 1969 to 1971, spent about a year in Vietnam. Since returning home, Rieser said he has been active in many veterans organizations, including the Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“By joining these and other veterans organizations, people can learn what kind of help is available for veterans,” Rieser said. “There is a lot of programs available to help veterans, but often people don’t know about them.”