Vets mark anniversary of end of Vietnam

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Forty-five years ago Thursday, the last American ground troops left Vietnam.

March 29 is designated National Vietnam War Veterans Day. And dozens of vets gathered at Chicago's Memorial on the Riverwalk.

Standing, shoulder to shoulder, in silence. Chicago remembers.

"Three thousand nine hundred twenty six Illinoisans that never had...never had the chance or the opportunity to raise a family," said Roger McGill, Vietnam veteran.

[20-25_SUPER_ON_Olga Bonilla_GOLD STAR FAMILY___]

"My brother died in 1970. He stepped on a booby trap getting off a Jeep. He didn't want anyone else to get off the Jeep, so he sacrificed himself," said Olga Bonilla, Gold Star Family.

A wreath was laid in their memory. It is a day for all Vietnam veterans.

"Why did it take so long for this country and our government to recognize the sacrifice of those men on the wall?" said President Jim Mindak, Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 242.

"You did what were told and tried to do the best. Some people didn't come back. So it's kind of important. It makes you feel good," said Jaime Gutierrez, Vietnam veteran.

Though troops left Vietnam 45 years ago, those moments still define them.

"I'll always be remember as Alderman Balcer, but PFC Balcer, United States MC veteran, Vietnam - that's the most important thing," said Former Alderman James Balcer, Vietnam veteran.

A bond for life.....

"None of us knew each other before," said Bob O'Leary, Vietnam veteran. "But now, all of a sudden, here we are and you see the turnout we have - and we are able to sit and talk and share our feelings."

And do it on this day for years to come.

"The 29th of March will always be our day....and everybody's remember of Vietnam veterans," said Carlos Saladino, Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 242.

South Vietnamese military members who fought side-by-side American troops also presented a wreath to remember the fallen.
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