Green River Star -

By David Martin
Editor 

Former mayor talks about Vietnam War, veterans

 

David Martin

General Hank Castillon talks about Memorial Day and the Vietnam War to a group of residents at the Memorial Day remembrance ceremony hosted at River View Cemetery.

The Vietnam War ended 40 years ago last month, but many of the emotional scars still remain.

Gen. Hank Castillon, former mayor of Green River, served during the Vietnam War and spoke to residents gathered at the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Riverview Cemetery.

"The Vietnam Era was one of the saddest times in American history," Castillon told the crowd. "It left many scars and still is having an impact 40 years later."

Castillon said many Vietnam veterans are still bitter about returning to what he described as an "ungrateful nation." A friend of his, returning to his home in Iowa, told Castillon no one had thanked him for his service. His friend also remarked he wouldn't have known how to respond if someone had.

Castillon said losing the war was a new experience for America at the time, saying he was raised to believe that winning wars was something a person took for granted in America.

"When your side is the loser, how does one behave," Castillon asked. "Americans acted as though they wanted to blame the soldiers, but couldn't. They adopted a comfortable mind set that somehow Vietnam veterans were victims of bad government decisions."

The Vietnam War cost the U.S. $450 billion and resulted in approximately 58,000 casualties and another 304,000 wounded. In Wyoming, 120 were killed in action, five of which were from Green River.

However, the toll it took on Vietnam's veterans continued long after the war ended.

Castillon said more than 150,000 Vietnam veterans committed suicide, with more veterans of conflicts, not just of the Vietnam War, adding to that number.

He said vets also had to fight to get the Veterans Administration to recognize the effects of Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"They deserve better, much better,"Castillon said.

As veterans return from more recent conflicts, Castillon said their journey is just beginning. The advice he has for those veterans is the reward of life and love is worth the pain and tears they experience.

"We were asked to serve, we answered the call to arms and went. We honored our oath "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," he said.

 

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