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Pennsylvania town remembers veterans killed in Vietnam

By STEVE MOCARSKY | The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. | Published: September 8, 2019

PLYMOUTH, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — Borough Council President Frank Coughlin addressed seven Plymouth natives who died in the Vietnam War at a Welcome Home Ceremony on Saturday.

“Frank Glowiak, Leonard Bish, Sterling Coates, Joseph Sinkewicz, Daniel Witko, David Lee, Edison Phillips, today, I hope you’re looking down from heaven and truly know that your hometown of Plymouth has not forgotten your supreme sacrifice in defense of our great country,” Coughlin said. “On behalf of your hometown and everyone that’s gathered here today, welcome home.”

Coughlin was one of several officials who spoke to a crowd of a few hundred people who gathered at the athletic field outside Wyoming Valley West High School to honor the memory of those seven men and the more than 58,000 other servicemembers whose names are etched into The Wall That Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Local volunteers assembled the 140 panels that make up the 375-foot-long wall on the athletic field in front of Wyoming Valley West High School last week.

The Wyoming Valley West Band set the mood for the ceremony with patriotic music and The Wyoming Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution presented memorial wreaths.

Clyde Peters, a Purple Heart recipient who served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s “Big Red One” 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam, said he put in the application for Plymouth to be a stop on the traveling memorial’s tour and practically “begged to get it here.”

After thanking numerous people and singling out borough Secretary/Treasurer Holly Spece for her organizational work, Peters noted that one of the Plymouth natives killed in Vietnam was his nephew, David Lee. He also knew the six other Plymouth natives who died in the war and noted that the opportunity to live full lives was taken from them.

“So every day we sit and think about how bad our life really is, think of this wall. Their lives were a lot worse than ours are,” Peters said.

State Sen. John Yudichak said Peters’ efforts were “instrumental in bringing the Wall That Heals to his hometown. Persistent and persuasive as a thundering tank, Clyde is a guy that gets stuff done.”

“Clyde said, ‘I have this idea about bringing our boys who were lost in Vietnam, bringing them back home, bringing the world to Plymouth and honor our veterans.’ And that’s all it took, was one idea. And my God, what a beautiful and thoughtful idea it was to bring the Wall That Heals to Plymouth.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser said many Vietnam veterans weren’t welcomed home. “Fingers were pointed, they were blamed, and it was troubling. Thank God America woke up and we came to understand that freedom isn’t free,” he said.

“That’s one of the greatest things about today and that wall — we now have the chance to say that, to say … God bless you, to say thank you for your service and to say welcome home,” he said.

Master of Ceremonies Bill O’Boyle, a Plymouth native and local journalist, asked if anyone at the ceremony was related to any of the seven Plymouth natives killed in Vietnam. A handful of people raised their hands.

After the ceremony, Janet Coates, widow of U.S. Marine Capt. Sterling Coates, said the arrival of the wall “and visitation of the people has helped me heal.”

“It’s been a very moving, emotional week. It’s been a very beautiful week, too. I appreciate all those who helped bring this here,” she said.

David Coates, Sterling’s eldest son, said he was proud of how the community came together to assist during the memorial’s time in Plymouth. As for what it meant to him, “in a nutshell,” he said, “it means my father has come home.”

©2019 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)
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