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Vietnam veterans honored decades after their service and sacrifice



Oakland Park – When a memorial service is held for Vietnam War veteran Robert Lee Hogue, there won’t be a military honor guard or any kind of government recognition.

That’s because Hogue was dishonorably discharged for desertion during the war.

But that won’t stop fellow Vietnam veteran Connie Christensen and others from honoring Hogue at a private ceremony. Christensen, the caretaker of Hogue’s remains, said his ashes would be spread at the beach sometime soon.

“This guy died alone,” said Christensen. “He doesn’t need to go back to the universe by himself.”

Christensen knew Hogue and witnessed his struggles with homelessness and drug and alcohol addiction; problems compounded by his dishonorable discharge. “He couldn’t get a job, couldn’t even wash dishes with a dishonorable discharge,” said Christensen, who served in Vietnam as an Army operating nurse.

Hogue, said Christensen, symbolizes many Vietnam veterans.

“He was lost in America . . . another tragedy,” she said. “There are many others like him.”

Hogue’s ashes were on a pedestal during Monday’s Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony at Jaco Pastorius Park in Oakland Park. He was one of several veterans honored that day.

At the end of the ceremony, Christensen asked those in attendance to save a few thoughts for those who served during America’s most controversial war.

“We still need you to remember us,” she said as she reminisced about her father, “Irish” Cyrus Christensen, who also served in Vietnam and died in 1998.

“We were incredibly close because of that,” she said about her and her father serving in Vietnam at the same time.

During the ceremony, Northeast High School JROTC students presented a photo of Christensen and her father, taken during the war, to her. As she held it tight to her chest, she wiped away some tears.

“Thank you,” she said.

The ceremony, with help from the City of Oakland Park, which issued a proclamation for Vietnam Veterans Day [designated by Congress as March 29], was part of the collaboration between JROTC and Veterans & Homefront Voices, an effort to help students meet and learn from veterans.

Other ceremonies were held Monday in Miramar, Delray Beach and Lake Worth.

Other Vietnam veterans were also honored. After each living veteran’s name was called, they stood next to a banner with their name and service photo.

Army veteran Stephen Moss, the founding chair of Mission United, a veterans advocacy group, estimates he was about 24 when he served in Vietnam as a company commander.

“He had a lot of responsibility for a young guy,” said Moss as he looked at his old photo.

“This is very, very special,” he said about the ceremony, hoping that next year’s ceremony will have a larger crowd.

The other Vietnam veterans honored were Daniel Francis Farrell, Army, killed in action; William Aaronson, IV, Army, killed in action; John Maurice Vollmerhausen, Jr., Army, killed in action; Timothy J. Farrell, Marine Corps; Joseph Pete Gannon, Marine Corps; Stephen Edward Malone, Navy; and Gaetano “Tom” Rumore, Army.

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