Visitors and military personnel get an up close glimpse at one the few remaining Vietnam War riverboats at the Vietnam Unit Memorial Monument. Veterans, Sailors and their families attended a remembrance ceremony at the Vietnam Unit Memorial Monument put on by the Swift Boat Sailors Association
and Naval Coastal Warfare Group One at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Leticia Fritzsche
By Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Jose Lopez, Jr., Navy Reserve Fleet Public Affairs Center San Diego
The Swift Boat Sailors Association (SBSA) held a memorial ceremony at the Vietnam Unit Memorial Monument aboard
Naval Amphibious Base Coronado on May 5 to honor those Sailors who are “still on patrol.”
More than 400 guests attended the event where honors were rendered to Sailors who died serving in Vietnamese coastal waters. Active-duty patrol boat Sailors and their families joined their Vietnam-era counterparts in paying their respects.
“It’s really exciting to stand by them,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Camelia Picazo of Inshore Boat Unit 17. “It’s different than just a parade. Here we can talk to them and show them and their families more details on the new equipment we use.”
The ceremony featured a Marine Corps Honor Guard gun salute that brought tears to several of the veterans present. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the veterans, Sailors and guests had the opportunity interact together and exchange some of their experiences.
“I arrived in Vietnam on Feb. 6. By [Feb.] 28, I was on my fifth mission,” said Gene Hart, SBSA treasurer. “On that mission we intercepted five North Vietnamese trawlers. My boat sank one and I received a field promotion to third class.”
While some guests were eager to share their experiences, others just wanted to reflect on the past.
“I lost a lot of friends over there,” said Steve Johnson, who served in Vietnam with Coastal Division
11 and 13 from May 1969 to May 1970. “It’s an overwhelming experience. We were young men then.”
“I didn’t come here with sadness,” said Bill Rutledge, former Swift boat crewman. “I came here with these guys, to honor the lives of those who make our country free.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony guests had the opportunity to view the monument and see fallen friends’ names on the wall.