Paducah ceremony honors service members who died in Vietnam War

PADUCAH — A decades-long tradition in Paducah continued on Memorial Day to honor those who died during the Vietnam War.

Monday night, dozens gathered in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Dolly McNutt Memorial Plaza for a ceremony to honor the 41 names inscribed on the monument. Most of those names belonged to service members from the Purchase area.

The annual event was organized by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 337 in Paducah. 

“A profound sadness and admiration for what these men did. They looked beyond themselves and saw a greater good, and were willing to sacrifice for that greater good,” said Gordon Williams, a Vietnam veteran who helped found the local VVA chapter. “As Bobbie Ann Mason said when she wrote the book ‘In Country,’ families continue to have a hole in their heart when their loved ones have perished in war.”

The service also honored the names on the 24 crosses in front of the monument, which represent local VVA members who have died over the years.

Vietnam veteran Carl Turner and his wife, Judy, were among the dozens who attended Monday’s ceremony.

“People don’t realize what those guys went through. They made the ultimate sacrifice to where we would have freedom,” said Turner.

In addition, Williams spoke about the health effects of Agent Orange during the ceremony.

Williams said the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was the first monument installed at the plaza. It was dedicated in 1984. Since then, three other memorials have been installed to recognize veterans who served in World War II, the Korean War, and the war on terrorism.

According to the National Archives, there were 58,220 U.S. military deaths during the Vietnam War.

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