More than 100 people at Niagara County Community College were reminded Wednesday about the horrible impact wars have on the people who fight them.
The school's annual Veterans Day Ceremony featured the unveiling of a new monument dedicated to the 86 Niagara County residents who sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War (1965-72).
The ceremony included an emotional speech from Vietnam veteran Paul Dominick about those men and the sacrifices of the men and women who survived their war experience. Dominick is an anthropology professor at the college.
The monument, a handsome rectangular wooden plaque set in a lighted case, contains the engraved names of the Vietnam dead. It was dedicated at the college's Veterans Memorial Park and paid for mostly by the Student Senate.
Rick Hands, a local veteran, made the metal and glass enclosure for the monument.
Several speakers were featured at the ceremony, and NCCC music student Peter Dauphin played taps while a wreath was placed in front of the park's Veterans Memorial.
Dominick came close to choking up as he expressed approval of the long overdue Vietnam memorial.
"As I saw our maintenance men working on the monument," he said, almost in tears, "it was very hard not to think of the people, particularly these 86, who never came back. I think I, like a lot of people, are still dealing with what my colleagues in psychology call the survivor syndrome. We don't understand. Why them?
"We have a Medal of Honor man here," he continued. "My brother-in-law was one of the very first killed (in 1965). The second man, three days before he was due to rotate (out of Vietnam)."
Many not named suffer in other ways, Dominick said, including one of his best friends, who suffered neurological damage in a battle that caused his unit to suffer 87 percent casualties.
"That man is often mistaken as someone with a serious drinking problem. The neurological damage he suffered makes him appear to the uninitiated as somebody who drinks to excess," Dominick said, "and that's not true."
Dominick said he likes the memorial's design because, "It's not a monument to glory, urging people to war. . . . It humbly acknowledges that this is the price people are asked to pay. That they aren't policymakers. We should never hold them accountable for whatever our politics may be."
He said veterans and others can honor fallen and struggling soldiers by "getting up every day and doing what we have to do. We do what is difficult. We do the right thing even if it's not popular; endure when things are difficult; be patient when its easier to be impatient. In that way, we earn the right to survive and honor these men."
He ended with a quote from Horace Mann: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."