The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall comes to the Westfield Valencia Town Center on Thursday, Sept. 26, with the opening ceremonies beginning at 6 p.m. In addition, there will a ceremony every night that the wall is in Santa Clarita, Friday through Sunday, with different speakers describing their experiences in the Vietnam War.
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For a full schedule of events, click here.
On Saturday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m., attendees will be introduced to doctors and nurses with Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital who served in the war, including Dr. John Cocco.
Cocco currently lives in Valencia and works as a medical ombudsman at Henry Mayo.
As a major in the United States Air Force, he served as a doctor in Saigon and Tan Son Nhut, Vietnam and on Clark Air Base in the Philippines from 1968 to 1969.
He was originally from Massachusetts and studied medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
He said that when the war started, his Canadian friends asked him why he going to Vietnam.
“It’s my country. These are my fellow citizens,” he said. “I had to take care of my fellow Americans.”
In addition to treating his comrades and escorting the wounded to Clark Air Base, Cocco was involved with the Medical Civic Action Program, taking teams into the surrounding areas to treat the locals.
Though he was never directly involved in combat, Cocco said that he saw the toll that the war took on soldiers. At that time, information and contact with loved ones was much harder to come by.
“Their families (also) paid a price,” Cocco said.
Without the ability to communicate with their families and unload, many of the soldiers, even those who weren’t wounded, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
No matter what the rank or condition of his patients, they all called him doctor, he said. And he treated even the highest ranking officers like he would anyone else.
“I had a feeling of identification with my patients,” Cocco said.
Cocco believes that it is important for people to be reminded of the sacrifices made during the Vietnam war, and that today it is easier for the younger generations to forget.
“We live in a time and an age…where there’s so much going on,” he said. “We’re being bombarded by all kinds of information. We’re multitasking in many ways. We lose track of what’s happened and it’s significance.”
But on Saturday, he will be helping Santa Clarita families to remember and honor the sacrifices made more than 50 years ago by so many.
The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall will be set up in the Westfield Valencia Town Center parking lot, near the intersection of Town Center Drive and Citrus Street. To learn more or for volunteer opportunities, click here.
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Source: Santa Clarita News