The bridge connecting Montgomery and Pulaski counties was officially renamed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge at a ceremony held at the Pete Dye River Course in Radford Thursday afternoon.
Virginia House of Delegates 7th District representative Nick Rush introduced the bill during this year’s General Assembly Session. Rush, an Army veteran himself, said that Vietnam veterans were not treated as they should have been upon returning home.
“It’s just very important that these guys know that they were respected, loved and this today honors them for their service,” he said.
Rush thanked the counties, which agreed to split the cost of the signage as well as recognizing the Daughters of the American Revolution General William Campbell (Radford), Alleghany and Pulaski chapters as being instrumental in the process.
The ceremony included skydiver Bobby Page jumping from plane above the golf course and landing right next to the ceremony with a US flag strapped to his back.
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Brig. Gen. Lapthe C. Lora 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.
“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, he said.”
Christiansburg resident and Vietnam Veteran, Allen Wirt, who served in the Air Force during the war brought along the two photos he had of his time in Cam Rhan Bay, Vietnam.
“It’s nice. Its shows the veterans of the Vietnam War that everyone is proud of us and it’s a group I’m glad to be a member of, he said.”
Following the unveiling of the sign, members of the Freedom Riders, crossed the bridge for the first time under its new name, which was viewed by those in attendance on a television that was streaming the ride on Facebook live.
Rush also thanked members of the Vietnam Veterans Bridge Naming Ceremony Planning Committee, which include: Nona Gabbert, Gary Harris, Linda Hooper, Betty Henley, Mike Honaker, Jenny Price, Carol Smith, Janet Tabor and Lea Wall.
Those interested in viewing the skydiver and inaugural ride across the bridge can do so at Nick Rush’s Facebook page.