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Emotions pour out as U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier honors Vietnam veterans in Auburn

Kim Schrier in a black and white blazer shakes hands with Sarah Blum who is wearing her Army uniform top.
Bellamy Pailthorp
/
KNKX
U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier, left, shakes hands Wednesday with 81-year-old Sarah Blum, an Army nurse who served in Vietnam.

To mark Veterans Day, Washington Congresswoman Kim Schrier met Wednesday with more than two dozen veterans at a community center in Auburn, where she honored those who served in Vietnam.

Schrier has been holding ceremonies to honor Vietnam veterans by presenting them with a special pin. She’s one of about 11,000 commemorative partners authorized to do so by the Department of Defense.

Although the honor comes 50 years after the end of the war, Army nurse Sarah Blum says it’s still meaningful. She says as recently as 1983 people threw eggs at her for carrying a U.S. flag and wearing her uniform.

“And so, having a beautiful day and being able to be welcomed home with respect and given a pin that celebrates and recognizes my service, it’s healing for me,” 81-year-old Blum said.

She says compassion is important. You might not understand completely what a member of the military has gone through.

“But just know that none of it’s easy and that every veteran needs to be treated with respect, and to honor their service, to honor the service that they gave,” Blum explained, her voice cracking, “because all the things that we have and the freedoms that we have are because of those of us in the military that served and made sure that everyone else was kept safe.”

In 1968, she was awarded the Certificate of Achievement for exemplary service as head nurse of the orthopedic ward at Madigan Army Hospital at what’s now Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Blum has written several books on PTSD and trauma.

It’s the PTSD and trauma among veterans that Roger Flygrove, commander of VFW Post 1741 in Auburn, wanted to talk to Schrier about. He was emotional as he spoke.

Kim Schrier poses with an older man and his wife in front of a U.S. flag and a Washington state flag.
Bellamy Pailthorp
Congresswoman Kim Schrier poses for a photo with Russ Coleman and his wife at Wednesday's veterans event in Auburn.

“We have veterans that are committing suicide. We have veterans who are unemployed,” Flygrove said. “We have people who are ill that are suffering from the effects of war and the things that that have happened to them, not only in just Vietnam but the Middle East. We need to take care of those individuals. So yeah, PTSD is real.”

Meanwhile, Ross Coleman came to Auburn to get his pin – a chance to talk with a member of Congress about anything related to his service and his experience after Vietnam.

“We didn’t get a ticker tape parade,” he told Schrier.

“No, so I officially want to thank you and express sorrow that that didn’t happen and officially welcome you home,” she replied.

Coleman says he wasn’t villainized the way many were upon coming home. But he felt ignored by anyone not in his immediate family. So being recognized with a pin and getting time to be heard by a member of Congress moved him and his wife to tears.

“Having someone appreciate us, because up until recently, nobody would even talk to you hardly about Vietnam, and to have a congresswoman say, ‘Here, this is for you,’ it really means a lot,” he said.

He says he’ll add that pin to his hat and wear it proudly.

To request a pin for a Vietnam veteran or to help plan future events, fill out this form on Schrier's website.