Canby on Wednesday became the first known city in the United States to pass a resolution officially acknowledging the service, pain and sacrifice of the Vietnam veteran community — as well as apologizing and expressing regret for the negative treatment those service members received when they returned home.
Spearheading the project are Canby residents Ken and Malinda Buckles, of the educational nonprofit Remembering America’s Heroes, who approached the Canby City Council earlier this year to request the city’s support of the resolution as well as a cross-country trip to honor Vietnam veterans across the country this fall.
The Buckleses were in attendance Wednesday as Mayor Brian Hodson read the resolution, followed by a standing ovation from city leaders and attendees.
“The City of Canby hereby acknowledge and express our tremendous and undying gratitude for the dedicated service and sacrifices of the American military service members deployed during the Vietnam War, and to the many servicemen and women who supported them in their mission, as well as their family members and loved ones,” Hodson read.
“Furthermore, the City of Canby wishes to apologize and express our deep regrets to our Vietnam veterans and their families for the manner in which their loyal service to our Nation was not recognized as it should have been, when it should have been, and for all the unnecessary pain and trauma this may have caused.”
It was an emotional moment as several councilors shared what the Buckleses’ work and the resolution meant to them.
“I hope I don’t cry when I say this, but thank you,” Council Shawn Varwig said. “My dad was in the Navy in the Vietnam War, and I remember, growing up, wanting to know the stories. But he had a hard time talking about it. He didn’t want to talk about it. And it was because of how he was treated when he came home.”
Varwig, whose business PDX Delivery & Logistics is sponsoring the gas for the Honoring Vietnam Veterans Across America trip, said the Buckleses’ efforts are benefiting not only Vietnam vets themselves but also their families.
“There was no way I could let you go on that trip without giving you some sort of sponsorship, so it’s truly an honor to be able to help you guys,” Varwig said. “But mostly, I’m forever grateful to you guys for letting people like my dad tell their stories.”
Ken Buckles, a retired teacher and coach, founded Remembering America’s Heroes more than 20 years ago to organize Living History Day events bringing veterans to speak with high school students across the state.
He has also authored three books chronicling veterans’ stories in his Remembrance series, and is in the midst of voicing the second audiobook version of his work.
“You two are so incredible,” Councilor Sarah Spoon told the couple Wednesday. “You do so much for so many in our community. I just want to thank you for your continued commitment to veterans.
“Telling their stories is so powerful, and you’ve given all of the people who read your books the opportunity to connect with those heroes, so I’m grateful for that.”
Council President Traci Hensley said she feels the connection to the Vietnam veteran generation most keenly through a close friend of her father’s who served in the war.
“His name’s on the wall, so this really hits home,” she said. “I really appreciate everything you’re doing to bring awareness. I just have a lot of heartfelt gratitude to not only the folks who served, but to you for what you’re doing for our community.”
Ken Buckles said he was grateful for the “courage, compassion, care and patriotism” of the community and city leaders and that, to his knowledge, Canby is the first and only government entity to issue a formal apology to the Vietnam veteran population, though other cities have reached out and expressed interest.
“This action comes the week before I and my lovely wife, Malinda, are planning to depart on our ‘Honoring Vietnam Veterans Across America’ tour, a cross-country journey spanning six weeks and more than 30 stops,” Buckles said.
“The message of our tour is identical to that of Canby’s resolution — we are bringing a message of hope, healing and reconciliation to our Vietnam veterans and their families.”
The planned kick-off for the Honoring Vietnam Veterans Across America tour will be at 9 a.m. Friday, October 28, at the Vietnam Era Veterans Memorial in Canby.
For more information about the effort, or to follow the Buckleses on the journey, visit the HVVAA website or like Honoring Vietnam Veterans Across America on Facebook.
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