We Must Never Forget Them

On May 10 2019 I attended the dedication ceremony for a Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Valley Forge High School. The ceremony was very moving and impressive as the community honored those 15 young men who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. Four of the men honored were from my class of 1966 and I knew three of them. Two I knew from my homeroom and one lived in my neighborhood and we grew up together at Ridge Brook Elementary School. That ceremony and memorial made me proud to be an alumnus of Valley Forge High School. It certainly epitomized the meaning of “Patriot Pride.”

There was a line in a popular song from the 1990s that went “All gave some, some gave all” describing Vietnam veterans. At the dedication ceremony all Vietnam era veterans were recognized and thanked for their service. Many went to Vietnam and some didn’t come back. The 15 men memorialized on the monument are but a small part of the more than 58,000 names on the National Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. But these men were my classmates, even if I didn’t know them or take the same classes with them at Valley Forge.

I was especially proud that the entire event and the idea of a memorial recognizing those Valley Forge alumni who gave their lives in Vietnam was planned and organized by current students in the History Club. Those students only know of the Vietnam War from their history class and most likely only know a Vietnam veteran as a grandparent. For current students to do something like this really shows that Valley Forge High School deserves its nickname of Patriots.

Perhaps more than any other event, the Vietnam War defined my generation and shaped our lives, even if we never served or went to Vietnam. I was fortunate enough to go off to college at Kent State University right after graduation from Valley Forge in 1966. As such I was deferred from the military draft as long as I carried a full time course load and kept my grades up in college. But that college deferment only put it off until I graduated from college.

No doubt had I not been able to go to college, I would have either enlisted or been drafted in the military service. For those young readers who have no memory of the military draft; if you were drafted, you were placed in the branch of the military service where the need was greatest. If you enlisted, you chose which branch of the military service to join. It made a big difference since draftees were far more likely to be sent to Vietnam.

When I graduated from college in June 1970; the government wasted no time in reclassifying my draft status and I was placed at the top of the heap for being drafted. But things had changed from 1966. There was a draft lottery system based on your birthday and the monthly draft calls were much lower. It was a nervous summer and I didn’t know what to do. The Plain Dealer published the draft numbers being called each Sunday. I said to my father that if they got close to my number, I would go enlist rather than get drafted. I also said that if I didn’t have a regular job by Labor Day no matter what, I would go enlist.

During the last week of August 1970, the Plain Dealer announced that local draft calls for the year would end at lottery number 195. I had number 204 so I was safe from being drafted that year. The next day I got a job offer. The next year I would be lower in the priority for being drafted. The last draft calls were made in the summer of 1971 and in 1973 the military draft ended.

It has been fifty years since the Vietnam War and most Vietnam veterans are aging. The war in Vietnam certainly was not one of the best moments in our country’s history. The war in Vietnam was a war that the United States had no business becoming involved. But regardless of anyone’s feelings about the war, we must never forget those who served there and especially those who “gave all” in Vietnam.

May 27 is Memorial Day, a national holiday set aside to remember those men and women who gave their lives in the service of our country through all our wars and conflicts.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 11, Issue 6, Posted 4:52 PM, 06.03.2019