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Vietnam Veterans Gather At Memorial For Its 30th Anniversary

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Grady Renville, left, visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Nov. 11 to honor his brother, whose name is on the wall. 
Markette Smith
Grady Renville, left, visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Nov. 11 to honor his brother, whose name is on the wall. 

Hundreds of veterans and their families gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Sunday to commemorate 30 years of gathering there to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

General Rick Shinseki, who is both a Vietnam War veteran and the U.S. Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, gave the keynote address.

"All of us who fought in Vietnam came home changed. Tougher. More Serious. No less vital, but somehow less light hearted," Shinseki said.

The secretary's words struck a chord with many in attendance, including Grady Renville, a Navy corps man assigned to the marines during the war.

Renville traveled from his home on an Indian reservation in Sisseton, South Dakota in order to be at the wall for the 30th anniversary event. He also attended the 10th and 20th anniversaries, in part to honor his brother, whose name is on the wall. 

"Well, the first visit was probably the hardest. It was like I had — what do you call them — blinders," he said. "The wall was right here and I was walking right by it. I just had a hard time the first time. And every time I come, it's a little less painful." 

The wall is a reminder that while he made it home after the war, his younger brother did not, which is something he's struggled with for many years.

"I asked my mother one time, 'How did you reconcile that?'" Renville said. "And she said, my brother Art, he wanted to be there. He could have done a college deferment, but one day he packed up and joined the army … That's what young guys do. They want to go see what's going on, you know. Nobody wants to die. But you get used to it." 

But Renville never really got used to it. Just a few months ago, at 69 years old, he finally went to therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to help him deal with his brother's death.

"I finally came to appreciate my role," he said.

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