WARRENSBURG - U.S. Navy veteran John Peluso, who in the late 1960s fought in Vietnam's infamous and violent Tet Offensive, gazed into the clear skies Nov. 11 as he concluded his address to citizens gathered in the Frederick Flynn Veterans Memorial Park.
Peluso gazed into the eyes of the young Boy Scouts standing solemnly at attention for the Veteran's Day services.
"You're taught as a soldier not to stop on the battlefield when your buddy beside you falls victim to enemy fire," he said. "I hope all of you never have to look into your friends' dying eyes."
Peluso knows what it's like - he experienced it firsthand in Vietnam, he said. During the Tet Offensive in Hue, Vietnam, a soldier close to Peluso was hit with a grenade by an insurgent. Gripping the young man's weapons harness, Peluso dragged him out of fire and pulled him behind a low stone wall. He then covered his gaping stomach wound with his poncho liner, Peluso remembered.
Then gazing into the dying soldier's eyes, he said, "You'll be all right," Peluso recalled grimly.
"I knew I had to lie to the guy, because I was trying to calm him down and give him hope," Peluso continued, recalling that before the Medivac chopper could respond, the 20-year-old was dead. Hundreds of Peluso's peers died that day.
The Scouts stared into the distance as Peluso concluded his thoughts.
"We must never forget the sacrifice of all our soldiers," he said.
A rifle team of Ray Hensler Sr., Blanca Pierce, John Blydenburgh and Eugene Pierce fired their guns in a salute to those soldiers who died for their nation.
In addressing the citizens, veterans, local firefighters and Scouts gathered for the service, Warrensburg Town Supervisor Kevin Geraghty spoke of his uncle Ennis, who was one of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. A warrant officer in the Marines, Ennis served in two wars, and was killed in the invasion of Iwo Jima in 1945. Kevin Geraghty added his uncle was buried in the family plot in town.
Geraghty also recalled his uncle Bill who was on the U.S.S. De Haven destroyer when it was bombed and sank due to Japanese fire. Geraghty's uncle survived, after spending hours in the frigid ocean in February. Geraghty's father Elihu and uncle Randy also served in conflicts.
In a prayer during the ceremony, American Legion 446 Auxiliary Chaplain Fran Poltanis urged all to work toward resolving conflict, rather than suffer the violence of wars.
"Touch the soul of people in every land to form a brotherhood so their differences might be resolved," she said.
Legion Commander Carson Parker also called for efforts to resolve conflict.
"We shall go forward together in a unity of purpose for the common good, in tolerance for those of different faiths and creeds," he said as flags waved under bright skies.