GIL CALAC HONORED FOR RECOGNIZING VIETNAM VETERANS
Band member Gil Calac served in Viet Nam with the U.S. Army for 15 months in 1968-70. He served with the 25th Infantry, 165th Signal at Cuchi and Thingnih, near Saigon. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.
Gil is the son of Don Calac of Rincon. His mother, Dolores, lives in Susanville, CA. Gil presently lives in White Swan, WA on the Yakama Indian Reservation.
As with nearly all American military personnel returning home from the war, Calac found much animosity from people towards those who served in Viet Nam. After leaving the Army, he did his best to get his life back on track. Like many veterans of his era, he put the war behind him. In time, the memories of war and the country’s negative feelings towards Viet Nam veterans faded and he lost contact with his Army buddies.
Two years ago Gil’s high school class held its 45th class reunion. At the reunion the class honored the Viet Nam veterans. Gil was surprised to see that thirty-three members of his class had served in Viet Nam. Following the reunion, Gil spoke with some of the veterans about the necessity to both recognize and honor Viet Nam veterans. The group determined to lobby Congress to pass a resolution to “Welcome Home Viet Nam veterans.” The group read about Congress member Linda Sanchez of Orange County, who sponsored a resolution recognizing the Viet Nam veterans since 2004, but was unable to pass the bill.
“Surprisingly,” said Calac, “Congress could not get enough support to get legislation passed.” The veterans group then decided to approach the individual states one-by-one to try and get their legislative support in welcoming home Viet Nam veterans.
The veterans group first approached the California legislature and found support. Governor Brown also supported legislation that recognized the Viet Nam veterans. Governor Brown signed the bill in 2012 to “Welcome Home Viet Nam Veterans,” making March 30th Viet Nam Veterans Day.
The next step was approaching members of the legislatures of Oregon and Washington to submit legislation welcoming home the Viet Nam vets. The Oregon legislature passed a bill supporting the Viet Nam veterans, with the proposed legislation receiving support in Washington State. Presently, Idaho is considering legislation, with the veterans group planning to approach the legislatures of Montana, Colorado and Nevada in the upcoming months.
This past summer the Major League Baseball, along with People Magazine, honored military veterans in an All-Star pre-game ceremony, called the Tribute for Heroes, held in Mets Citifield ballpark. Calac was among 30 veterans chosen to be honored at the All-Star game with each veteran representing one major league team. Gil was chosen by his veterans group, the Yakama Warriors, to represent his favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. The veterans represented each war from World War II to the present war in Afghanistan, with Gil representing veterans of Viet Nam. Among the veterans, there were three Native Americans that included a Code Talker, David Patterson.
“I was honored to have been chosen to be a part of this very special recognition ceremony at the All Star game that honored and remembered all America’s veterans that have served their country in all the wars from World War II right up to the present time,” said Calac. “It was a very special honor to meet one of the few surviving code talkers. These men have brought such great recognition to Native Americans who have served our country so honorably in all of the wars since World War II in which our country has fought.
”The Veterans were honored prior to the All-Star game and received a tremendous ovation from the crowd. The ceremony was photographed by People Magazine. The August 5, 2013, issue of People featured photos and an article on the All-Star ceremony honoring the Veterans.