News: OCS class honors Iowa Vietnam veterans
JOHNSTON, Iowa - The 59th Officer Candidate School class of the 185th Regimental Training Institute, Iowa Army National Guard, held its annual OCS Regimental Ball March 1, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa.
As part of this timeless military tradition, officer candidates recognized and honored Iowa Vietnam veterans as part of the Department of Defense’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
The event fulfilled the wish of previous classes to become more involved in community service projects.
"A recurring topic of discussion is helping OCS students and cadre appreciate our history and honor those who served," said Maj. Philip Turner, the OCS program commander. "The need for community service projects and commemorative partnerships will likely last for years to come."
Thanks in part to the efforts of the OCS class, the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum will construct a new Vietnam War exhibit at the Camp Dodge museum.
"To a lot of people, especially young people, the Vietnam War was something that occurred someplace else and was fought by someone else," said Michael Vogt, the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum curator. "We seek to honor those Iowa veterans who answered their country's call, in a respectful and appropriate manner."
As borne out by history, Vietnam veterans haven’t always received the support today’s service members enjoy. However, events like the DOD initiative and the Regimental Ball help foster a connection between two distinctly different periods of history.
One of the Vietnam veterans honored was guest speaker retired Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, a native of Le Mars, Iowa, and a graduate of the 185th RTI OCS program. Schultz spoke primarily of his experiences as an officer candidate at the RTI and of his subsequent time serving as a platoon leader during Vietnam.
He emphasized the value of understanding and respecting our past.
"We, not just as a military, but as a nation, have to take pause and reflect on the experiences and the lessons provided to us in all of our past wars," said Schultz.
Schultz feels those lessons are vital to the future of our nation and to the soldiers who will guide the Army through future campaigns and challenges.
Most importantly, he wants people to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"Never take any engagement for granted as a nation," said Schultz. "The stakes are high, and not just in dollars and cents, but with human lives."
Also honored was David Haywood, a former U.S. Army soldier and father of current OCS candidate Demetria Haywood. He believes events like this are necessary to help bridge the generation gap.
"I think it's a step in the right direction, to let them know what we [went through], not just physically but also mentally," said Haywood. "It’s something that should be re-evaluated because of the stigma that is placed on the Vietnam veteran."
Haywood also believes fixing those misconceptions isn’t just important for helping yesterday’s veterans; he feels a better connection will allow those soldiers to pass on their experiences, as well as create opportunities for new soldiers.
"My daughter has a lot of opportunities in her career that weren't there before, and the veterans of the past helped create those opportunities," said Haywood. "We have to stick with them now (the officer candidates) to let them know they aren’t in this by themselves."
The 185th RTI plans to continue these partnerships, which adds considerable value to students’ experiences and training. For the Vietnam veterans, it’s the opportunity to help provide a brighter future for tomorrow’s military leaders.