DELANO, MN Bill Trow’s father and uncles returned from World War II to applause and celebration. That’s not the welcome he and more than 2.5 million other veterans received when they returned home from the Vietnam War.
“They were not ridiculed, reviled or condemned for having been sent off, many as teenagers, to a foreign land to fight, and in some cases die, as they were expected to do for their country,” Trow told those gathered at the Delano High School Tiger Activity Center on Veterans Day. “World War II vets never had to face or live with the criticisms the Vietnam vets had to face just 25 years later.”
The treatment of Vietnam veterans caused many of them to withdraw and keep their military service in the war private.
Trow talked about keeping his own service in the Vietnam War a secret for 15 years and also discussed the guilt he feels when he thinks of those who lost their lives in the war.
“Why did I, and not they, get a chance to come home, get married, raise a family, have a career and live long enough to retire? It’s a question that will forever haunt me,” Trow said.
“Many veterans who did come home, whether wounded or not, have never been able to rid themselves of the mental trauma of their experiences, nor have they had the chance to accomplish some of the things I and others more fortunate have,” Trow continued. “Some can never blot out their experiences and are now estranged from their families, suffer from physical problems, mental issues and, in some cases, are homeless and without adequate shelter.”
He wanted to do something to help.
Walking and hiking have always been hobbies for Trow. In fact, he and Delano American Legion Post 377 Commander John Sweet led physical training and marches while serving together.
“That was my introduction to Bill Trow and his walking, and he hasn’t stopped walking since,” Sweet said.
Over the course of 15 months, Trow planned and executed Walk Illinois 2014, a 435-mile trek from the southern tip of Illinois to the Wisconsin border.
Despite a three-week postponement halfway through the trip due to severe shin splints, Trow completed his journey, raising almost $23,000 for the Vietnam Veterans of America along the way.
“The trek was a tough but very gratifying experience,” Trow said. “I met a number of wonderful people along the route, especially those who acted as my hosts at my stopping points. Many came up and thanked me for helping to raise awareness for the troubles and hardships still facing Vietnam veterans almost 50 years after their return home.”
Trow referenced the VVA motto “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another” and said he is pleased that veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated with dignity and respect.
He challenged those in attendance to help veterans in need.
“Try to do something, no matter how small, to help those less fortunate veterans who still need assistance,” Trow said. “It may not have a $1 million impact, but it can be a personal endeavor. Every small commitment is a small drop in a big bucket that can add up to a big wave of assistance.”
Before the Veterans Day program, a wall of honor that recognizes DHS graduates who are serving in the military was unveiled.
“Take a look at the wall on your way out and you will notice it needs some pictures,” DHS Principal Steve Heil said. “Please send that picture to Mike Lindquist or I and we will place it on the wall.”
During the program, the Post 377 2014 American Legion baseball team and representatives to Boys State and Girls State were recognized.
DMS students Clair Moonen, Ellis Rold and Calvin George Kowalsky received awards from VFW Post 1901 for their Patriot’s Pen essays titled, “Why I appreciate America’s Veterans,” with Moonen reading her essay.
Brett Norling was recognized for winning the American Legion Post 377 and Knights of Columbus scholarship essay contest with his essay, “A Pledge, a Promise,” about the Pledge of Allegiance.
The program also included music by the DHS band and Sound Revolution before closing with the playing of taps by Katie Hemingway and the retiring of the colors.