‘They Were the Best that America Had’: Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Ceremony at Iowa State Capitol

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DES MOINES, IOWA — The 14th Annual Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Ceremony on the Iowa State Capitol grounds on Friday featured a Des Moines-native who played a key role in the final hours of the Vietnam War.

Col. Gerald Berry, USMC (Retired), was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam from 1969-1975. Berry was one of the pilots who helped shuttle hundreds of Vietnamese nationals and the US Embassy staff from Saigon as the city fell around them on April 30th, 1975. Berry shared the story of how he ‘ordered’ the US Ambassador to finally leave the building with a group of dozens gathered at the Capitol.

In closing his remarks, Berry spoke directly to the Vietnam veterans gathered before to remind them that no matter what anyone thought of the war then – or now – they are American patriots.

“When I went to Vietnam – as we all did when we went there -none of us wanted to be there, but we went anyway” Berry said, ” We went to serve.  We went there to serve the United States of America.  I would submit to you that that group of Vietnam veterans was the best that America had. Brothers who fought without America’s support.  And returned without America’s welcome.  They were the best that America had.

“You think in life: there are things I wished I’d done, many things I should have done, things I’m happy I’ve done.  But my proudest, my very proudest, was serving with my brothers in Vietnam.”

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