Video: Coming Downtown to Remember the Fallen in Vietnam

Listening to the names of New Yorkers who died in Vietnam, at Elizabeth Seaton Shrine, a church near the tip of Manhattan. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Apr. 07, 2016

Names of the 1,741 soldiers from New York City killed in Vietnam rang from the pulpit of a Downtown church. Their names were followed by a reading of the 99 New Yorkers who have died in post-9/11 conflicts.

The solemn reading of names on Saturday, April 2, held for the first time at Elizabeth Seaton Shrine, 7 State St., is part of the city’s annual commemoration of Vietnam Veterans Day, sponsored by the United War Veterans Council. It is an event that not only remembers the fallen, but honors the experiences and sacrifices of the 250,000 New Yorkers who returned home to a politically fractured and unwelcoming country.

“This day reminds me of my brothers and sisters that never returned,” said John Batson, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969.  “It makes me feel that I’m really appreciated now, which I wasn’t before.”

“I accept the appreciation,” he added with a smile.

Dan McSweeney, president of the United War Veterans Council who served as a Marine in Iraq, said the “warm and supportive welcome” that the post-9/11 generation of veterans have received upon their return from war is rooted in lessons learned from the treatment of vets nearly 50 years ago.

“I felt a debt of gratitude. I understood that America as a society, as a culture, matured because of the experience of the Vietnam veterans generation,” McSweeney said. “They taught the country that we have to distinguish between policy makers on the one hand and those who serve overseas on the other.”

The reading of the names was followed by a ceremony and wreath-laying at the Vietnam Veterans Plaza, next to 55 Water Street, where those names are engraved on 12 granite pillars. The day’s events were capped by an “expo” of organizations that provide help to all veterans.

“We want to leave a legacy of service,” said Manny Cabrero, a Tribeca resident and Vietnam veteran who is active in veteran issues. “A legacy of helping new veterans and a legacy of not forgetting the lessons of Vietnam.”