‘Heroes welcome’ for veterans of the controversial war
Few would argue serving one’s country deserves anything but the utmost honor and respect, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Vietnam veterans were not welcomed home like current military members who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“They’re coming back to heroes’ welcomes, like the World War II vets,” Vietnam veteran and lifetime Farmington resident Bill Frame said. “Part of that comes from the way Vietnam veterans were treated. Even when the Gulf War first started, there were prayer vigils. When I went in, there was nothing like that. We didn’t have any support groups.”
Farmington will have a big support group next week.
The annual Patriotic Day in Farmington is scheduled Nov. 7 at Farmington High School. A pork-chop dinner will be served from 5-6:30 p.m. and a program featuring speakers and student performances will start at 7 p.m. It’s free and everyone is invited to attend.
This year the program honors Vietnam veterans.
“Back then you didn’t want to wear your uniform when you came back,” said Grant Beyl, a retired colonel, Vietnam veteran and Farmington resident. “The American public learned from past history that’s not the way to treat troops. I’ll let the history books do the final analysis on what happened over there, but I’m glad to see we’re finally recognized. I know a lot of guys had a hard time with that. A lot had drug and alcohol problems. It was a lot bad memories and not being thanked for what they put up with.”
Beyl was a platoon leader at the age of 21, in charge of a group of teen draftees in the war.
“Like everything else, it was some good with some bad,” Beyl said. “You learn from those experiences. It made a lot of people grow up really fast when you find out what life is like in a third world especially in conflict. I’m proud that I served. I wish the American public would have treated us a little bit better, but I think that’s in the past.”
He was in active duty for four years, and eventually joined the National Guard with the 34th Infantry Division for 23 years.
For every fighting soldier, there were about a dozen people backing them up.
Frame was one of those men working in the shipyard. He had a gun, but didn’t always carry it. Instead, he carried food, beer, asphalt and sandbags off the deepwater piers in Da Nang.
He labored 12 hours a day and toward the end of his service he was working seven days a week. It was hot. At about 11:45 a.m., the breeze off the water would quit for about an hour when it’s already 110 degrees. Then in January, it would rain straight for a month.
While his life wasn’t in constant danger, there were sporadic mortar attacks.
He spent time on aircraft carriers and destroyers until he got out early in 1970. He wasn’t welcomed home with open arms.
“There were (protesters) outside the base,” he said. “We didn’t get it as bad in the Navy. The Army got treated pretty poorly.”
When he returned home, he was eventually hired by Farmington-based Dakota Electric, a company he worked for until he retired in 2008.
His involvement in military hasn’t ended, and likely never will. He’s the leader of the color guard and gambling manager at the Farmington VFW, which he served as quartermaster for 12 years.
He also spends his time teaching elementary children flag etiquette.
“I tell them when the first flag comes by in a parade, take your hat off and stand,” Frame said. “They need to do that to remember freedom isn’t free. Like my hat says, ‘All gave some, some gave all.’ Especially now, when the World War II vets are getting very thin. We may only have two left in our post now. Almost all the Vietnam vets are 60 plus. Their ranks will be thinning, too.”
Beyl makes sure that current veterans and active duty military members know they’re supported. He’s an active member of the local Support Our Troops Organization that will send more than 1,000 Christmas care packages. He has two sons active in the military.
Both are honored by the fact that Farmington’s Patriotic Day has grown to an event featuring more than a thousand people.
Although the event is free, organizers would appreciate an RSVP, which can be done by calling 651-460-1805 or online at www.farmington.k12.mn.us. No tickets are needed.