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Trying to keep promise to Vietnam vets: parade

By Lou Michel | The Buffalo News, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 4, 2016

Robert K. Bartoo, at 82, is still haunted by the long chats he had with returning Vietnam veterans at his East Side tavern, the Sea Shanty tavern, when the war was raging back in the 1960s.

He promised those war veterans then that he would honor their service.

Bartoo kept his word and wrote a play, “A Night to Remember,” about post-traumatic stress and a fictional Vietnam veteran.

But Bartoo said he still has one more promise to keep - organizing a long overdue parade to welcome home those who served in Vietnam.

“When I was bartending at my gin mill, I would see veterans having flashbacks and some of the flashbacks were so intense, that after I’d close the bar at 3 a.m., and turn down the lights, we’d continue until 8 in the morning when I reopened,” Bartoo said of his unorthodox counseling sessions with the veterans.

An Air Force veteran himself, he later sailed the Great Lakes as a commercial sailor before taking his savings and opening the Sea Shanty tavern on the 300 block of Fillmore Avenue,

Bartoo says he will need the help of others if he is to succeed in organizing the parade. He envisions it beginning at Buffalo City Hall and heading east on Court Street, then south on Main Street and ending at the nearby Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

At the park’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Bartoo said he wants his play to be performed along with the public participating by reading aloud the names of local service members who died in Vietnam.

But it is all a dream at this point. Bartoo is at Orchard Manor, a Medina nursing home recovering from a broken hip. When the Hamburg native will return to Lockport, where he last resided, is up in the air.

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©2016 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.)

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Veterans pay their respects to the fallen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Stars and Stripes file photo

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