Vietnam Veteran Dennis “Gunner” Hawley Is Guest Speaker At Veterans Day Ceremony

IMG_8101.jpgLos Alamos High School NJROTC cadets present the colors at the Veterans Day ceremony Sunday at American Legion Post 90. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

IMG_8161.jpgGuest speaker Dennis “Gunner” Hawley chats with American Legion Post Commander Linda Fox following Sunday’s Veterans Day ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


U.S. Vietnam veteran Dennis “Gunner” Hawley was the guest speaker Sunday for the Veterans Day Ceremony at American Legion Post 90.

Hawley spent 18 months in Vietnam as a helicopter crew chief. When he was discharged from the Army he landed in San Francisco and like many Vietnam veterans he received much less than a welcome home. He went to college on the GI Bill and received a Bachelor of Science in Business and worked for the government in various capacities including for the Haliburton Corporation in Iraq and six years working as a subcontractor administrator supporting Iraqi Freedom, helping to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq and to support the military deployed.

Hawley closed out his career at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a subcontractor’s technical representative. He is a longtime member of American Legion Post 90 and in 2010, he was one of the four Legion members that founded the Legion Riders Motorcycle Association which is active in many activities and charities throughout the region.

Hawley thanked the American Legion Post 90 and the American Legion Riders for inviting him to speak. The following is a transcript of his speech:

I would like to take a moment and acknowledge anyone who has lost a loved one in the line of duty to this country. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed, words of condolence can’t even begin to adequately console a survivor’s grief. An while from grief from loss may change throughout the years, it never leaves us.

To all the veterans here today, thank you. To your families, thank you. To the veterans who are not here today and their families, we also want to acknowledge your service and your sacrifices.

On Veterans Day we find ourselves reflecting on these men and women who so bravely risked life and limb in the face of grave danger. We remember those who left the comforts of home to fight for us and our freedom to one day trade the title of soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman or Marine for veteran. We mourned out brothers and sisters in arms the day they left us and we honor them now.

To all the patriots who are in attendance here today, thank you for supporting our men and women today in uniform and their families who are all over the world doing incredible work on behalf of the security of this country in a world that is dangerous and complicated. From all of us, we salute you.

Forty-seven years ago today, I attended my first Veterans Day ceremony as a veteran. I was a student at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. I had returned from Vietnam the year before that.

I always remember that Veterans Day in 1970 because it reminded me of the one constant that many of you out here today recall from the war – and that you out here today recall from that war – and that constant was the uncommon valor of Americans from every corner of the country. They were the quiet heroes, the quiet heroes of our time. Some of these veterans are here today and the names of many more are memorialized on the Wall in out nation’s capital. As of last year, there were 58,318 names on the Vietnam Wall. I personally know three of them.

The Wall means many things to many people. As it records the names of the past and reflects on our hopes for the future, it also offers a reminder and a message that carries across generations.

The Wall reminds us to honor those who defend our country from making sure they’re treated with the dignity and respect and the appreciation they deserve, to caring for those who return home with visible and invisible wounds of war. Regardless of when or where or what war they served in, honoring our veterans is a sacred responsibility that we must all honor.

For some of our veterans we are unable to pay our respects at a final resting place. There are still more than 82,000 military personnel missing in action from every conflict since World War II. We will never forget them and we will never stop looking to bring them home.

Fifty years ago, gratitude was in short supply among many segments of the American public. Heroes returned home from Vietnam and were discouraged from wearing their uniforms in public places due to the disrespectful actions of some protestors and others who disagreed actions of some protestors and others who disagreed with policies that were set by our elected officials.

Too often, the protestors failed to realize that it was not the campus agitator who ensured our First Amendment rights, it was our veterans.

Diane Carlson Evans recently described what it was to be a U.S. Army nurse in Vietnam. I quote from her article in the American Legion magazine. “You didn’t worry about the little things like dying. We had so many casualties to take care of we were never bored. The patients came first.”

A lot of things came first to our veterans. Country first, mission first, comrades first.

James McCloughan who received the Congressional Medal of honor, was a combat medics, spoke of “love so deep in the soul” of 89 men who fought on a hill along side of him. He said, “I shall do my best to represent those men as the caretaker of this symbol of courage and action beyond the call of duty”.

That’s what veterans do – they put others first. Today is Veterans Day. It is a day that we put veterans first also means to support and care for their families. It is why President Lincoln famously included widows and orphans when he promised to care for him who shall have borne the battle.

You don’t have to live in a military town to know veterans. Veterans are everywhere – sometimes proudly wearing a service cap or military t-shirt, other times quietly blending into the background.

As stated in the introduction I had the opportunity to work in Iraq for several years and interacted daily with our soldiers there. They are a dedicated group of young men and women. They wear an 8 lb Kevlar helmet and a 45 lb flak jacket and on any given day the ground temperature would reach 110 degrees. These soldiers are the best trained fighting force in the world today and we are here to honor them today.

By virtue of your attendance here, you likely have an appreciation for veterans. The people here are veterans, friends of veterans, co-workers of veterans and neighbors of veterans. It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans.

There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge their service but the best way is to simply say thank you for what you have done for our country.

The three volley salute is performed by Los Alamos High School NJROTC cadets. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Veterans applaud the speech made by Vietnam veteran Dennis Hawley. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

VFW Cmdr. Roger Anaya chats with House District 43 Rep.-Elect Chris Chandler during lunch Sunday at the American Legion. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

IMG_8123 (1).jpgLos Alamos High School NJROTC cadets at the Veterans Day ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

IMG_8110.jpgU.S. Navy veteran Dan Mack holds the microphone for Girl Scouts as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Los Alamos County Councilor Pete Sheehey reads a proclamation issued by the Council Sunday at the Veterans Day ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

IMG_8137 (2).jpgVietnam veteran Dennis “Gunner” Hawley speaks to community members gathered at the Veterans Day ceremony at the American Legion. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

House District 43 Rep.-Elect Chris Chandler reads a proclamation from Gov. Susana Martinez at Sunday’s Veterans Day ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

Jim Ritchie delivers the invocation at Sunday’s Veterans Day ceremony. Photo by Maire O’Neill/

IMG_8103Flagbearers brave the cold Sunday morning for the Veterans Day Ceremony at American Legion Post 90 Sunday morning. Photo by Maire O’Neill/