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Daughters of the American Revolution recognizes local Vietnam Era vets during luncheon

Ray Wilburn spent 41 years of his life in the U.S. Army. When he turned 60 years old, he had to retire.

“I would have stayed in,” he said Thursday during the Daughters of the American Revolution Vietnam Veteran’s Recognition Luncheon.

Wilburn served overseas three times during his military career, the first being during the Vietnam War in 1967 and 1968. He served in Bosnia in 2001-2002 and then in Iraq in 2005-2006.

Wilburn joined about 30 other Vietnam War era veterans, members of DAR and local officials inside St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall Thursday afternoon where they were treated to lunch as part of the Vietnam War 50th anniversary commemoration.

In hopes to ensure generations to come understand the sacrifice made by Vietnam veterans — both on the battlefield, and once they came back to the United States — in 2012, then-Pres. Barack Obama signed the 50th Anniversary proclamation, which will continue until 2025.

After the proclamation was signed, the Department of Defense set up the Vietnam War Commemoration, to which DAR became a partner.

“We made a commitment to celebrate our Vietnam Veterans sometime within a five-year period,” said Sally Malone, regent of local DAR chapter.

Wilburn said he appreciated DAR holding the lunch.

“I wish more Vietnam vets would have come,” he said looking out around crowd. “But this is really nice.”

The Oxford High School Marine JROTC presented the colors and Brady Bramlett performed a musical tribute titled, “For the Fallen.”

Andrew Wiest, professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi and author of “The Boys of ‘67,” was the guest speaker. He read from interviews he did with the veterans featured in his book.

“The best way to learn about the war is through their words,” Wiest said. “A lot has been written about the Vietnam War, most of it argumentative about whether it was a good or bad idea, but what’s missing is the regular soldier. He’s been lost in the shadows. So I wanted to tell the stories of the young men and women we sent there.”

Oxford Alderman Rick Addy was given a Certificate of Appreciation for donating one month’s salary to the DAR to host the luncheon. Addy donates his alderman salary each month to different local charities.

Malone closed the event thanking the veterans in attendance for their service and sacrifices.

“We want you to know we send all of you our love and sincere thanks for what you did,” she said.