This year’s picnic is planned for August 26 at noon at Bennett Park in Charlotte. All Vietnam vets and their spouses are invited and should bring a dish to pass. Whistlepig BBQ in Charlotte will be furnishing pulled pork for the group, with water and place settings also provided. “As long as you guys meet, I’ll help you out,” Whistlepig BBQ owner Jason Strotheide told Jerry Taylor, one of the organizers of the now-annual event. “The guys appreciate this very much,” Taylor added. The last picnic was held in 2022 with 38 people attending.
Many veterans remember some tough stuff about their experience in the military during the Vietnam war. How they were treated when they returned home is especially painful. There were no parades or welcoming parties. Many were treated disrespectfully due to the war being so unpopular. They learned to hide their veteran status, and many have refused to discuss their experience in Vietnam over the years because of the attitudes that were directed toward them.
Jerry Taylor, Dave Smith, Fred Meyers, and Darrell Gingrich – all Eaton County Vietnam veterans – decided to do something about it and started this back in 2017. They set out to bring as many Eaton County Vietnam veterans as possible together, as a kind of reunion, to talk, share stories, and reminisce about their mutual experiences. They organized a Vietnam veterans’ picnic and invited everyone that they knew to be a veteran of the conflict. “The stories and the camaraderie are what keep many vets coming back,” Taylor said. Taylor is the last man still alive from his unit, so there’s no chance of a reunion with those with whom he served. “We don’t want to see it end,” said Taylor. “We look forward to it.”
In addition to the annual picnic at Bennett Park, a group of Vietnam veterans also meets at the Charlotte Big Boy restaurant about 8 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month. They have breakfast, and sit and talk about a little of everything, Taylor said, and they welcome others to join them.
They also utilize the services of Thomas Lewis, Veterans Service Officer for Eaton County. Lewis provides services for veterans and their spouses. “He’s great at helping folks out,” explained Taylor, “whether it’s death benefits, housing, education, insurance, pensions, or medical care, he’s there for us.”
For additional information about the veterans’ events contact Jerry Taylor at 517-242-3048.