The Rotary Club of Cincinnati honored its Vietnam Veterans on Thursday, November 9, 2017, with a nationally designed commemoration ceremony to honor the men whose original homecomings were often quiet or ignored.
“It was such a controversial time,” said Fred Fischer of Indian Hill, who served in the Navy from 1971 to 1975. “You didn’t talk too much about it when you got home.” He said.
Fischer was one of 12 Rotarians honored. The program was part of a national commemoration project called “The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration,” designed to recognize, thank and honor the United States military veterans who served during the Vietnam War (Nov.1, 1955 through May 15, 1975).
The ceremony was formed as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. This is the first time the Rotary Club of Cincinnati has held this commemoration. Veterans received a lapel pin and a standing ovation.
Brigadier General (retired) Mark Arnold of the US Army/Special Forces thanked the veterans for their service and talked about the history and ongoing mission of the Special Forces, which is also known as the Green Berets. Arnold is the President of Chapter XLV (45) Buckeye Chapter of the Special Forces Association in Ohio.
The honorees included soldiers who fought in Vietnam and those who served during that time in other parts of the world.
Fischer was a Navy anti-submarine air crewman in Europe. “I wasn’t in Vietnam, but I trained some of the people who went there,” he said. Some of the lessons he learned in the military remain with him today.
“I grew up,” he said. “I came home from the service and my friends were still kids. It gave me a maturity and a seriousness that has followed my through my life. The freedoms that we enjoy are not free.”
Bob Stille of Mt. Carmel was a Navy journalist and photographer from 1968 to 1971. He was stationed aboard the USS Henley.
“The military gives you organization and structure. I’ve carried that with me in my life and my business,” said Stille.
Other Rotarians honored were:
Steve Drefahl, Pierce Township, Navy Capt. 1974-2004
Ron Ott, Loveland, Army First Lt., 1970-75
Rich Dineen, Montgomery, Army Staff Sgt. (dates not available)
Jerry Ernst, Mt. Lookout, Army Staff Sgt. (dates not available)
Rick Findlay, Mt. Lookout, Army Capt. 1971-75
Ken Keller, Milford, Army First Lieutenant 1963-1968
Al Koncius, Indian Hill, Army Sgt., 1965-71
Tom Lippert, Evendale, Navy Lt., 1954-62
Jeff Long, Mariemont, Navy Lt. Commander, 1964-66 and 1969-73
Bob McElroy, Anderson Township, Navy Petty Officer, 1965-69
Greg Moratschek, Blue Ash, Army Spec. 5, American Forces Network, 1970-72
Steve Drefahl also is president of the Military Officers of America, Greater Cincinnati Chapter. In 2015 that chapter became a partner program with the national commemoration project. Defahl coordinated the presentation for the Rotary Club.
The Rotary Club of Cincinnati was founded in 1910 as a service and networking organization with a mission to provide selfless service in the community and the world and to meet needs of children with disabilities. With close to 350 members, it is the largest Rotary Club in Greater Cincinnati. For information on The Rotary Club of Cincinnati see www.cincinnatirotary.org