New River Valley bridge dedicated to honor Vietnam Veterans in ceremony

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) A bridge on the Montgomery County-Pulaski County line is now honoring men and women who served in the Vietnam War.

The Route 114 bridge over the New River is near the Radford Arsenal and has thousands of cars drive over it everyday to see the new signs.

Dedicating the bridge was a project that was in the works for two years.

But to hear Vietnam War Veterans respond to it at a ceremony Thursday, it was probably something that should have been in the works since the war officially ended in 1975.

Floyd Harris, a Vietnam War Veteran from the Radford area, said, "This is one of the greatest things this area has ever did for the Vietnam Veterans, and believe me I appreciate it."

Harold Ross, a Veteran from Christiansburg, added, "Longtime overdue and it is gratefully appreciated by a lot of us."

Al Davis, a Veteran from Fairlawn, said, "It also makes me think about our brothers and sisters that didn't make it back and the 58,000 that are still on the wall in D.C."

The large ceremony Thursday honoring the bridge dedication featured taps, a 21 gun salute, and even a sky diver flying the American Flag and landing in the middle of the ceremony.

When the time came and the sign was unveiled, freedom riders were simultaneously doing the inaugural bridge ride, which was streamed back to the crowd.

It was a ceremony made possible by the Daughters of the American Revolution and Delegate Nick Rush who pushed the movement through the House of Delegates.

Delegate Rush introduced HB 1741 during the 2017 General Assembly Session, which designated the bridge as the "Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge."

In response, the DAR General William Campbell Chapter, along with the Alleghany and Pulaski Chapters, arranged for the sign unveiling ceremony at the Virginia Tech Pete Dye River Course.

"It's just very important that these guys know that they were respected, loved, and this today honors them for their service," the 7th District Delegate said.

Linda Hooper is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution General William Campbell Chapter in the Radford area.

She said, "I feel like it's part of history for them to see and for future generations to see and to honor the men and women."

The keynote speaker Thursday was Brigadier General Lapthe C. Flora who was born in Saigon and is the first Vietnam refugee to be promoted to general officer in the United States Army and the second of Vietnamese descent. Previously, he served as the commander of the Virginia National Guard’s Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command and currently serves as the Assistant Adjutant General for Strategic Initiatives.

He said, "Many of the refugees that came here, many of them wanted to come to the United States because we know, back in those days, all the good things that they did for us, so this is a great opportunity also, for me, to personally say thank you to all of them."

Veterans at the ceremony Thursday said when they returned from the Vietnam War, it was not a warm welcoming as many, at the time, disagreed with the war. But events and honoring like this one prove people understand they were following orders, and now they get the respect they always deserved.