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Moving ceremony pays tribute to veterans of 'forgotten war'

Weiser Signal American of Weiser, Idaho

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The Vietnam War officially ended 40 years ago in 1975.

America's involvement on the ground in the increasingly unpopular conflict had pretty much ended a couple of years before that, when President Richard Nixon turned over the fighting to the South Vietnamese, the "Vietnamization" of the war.

Local veterans who served during the "forgotten war," as some call it, were honored four decades later on Aug. 8 at a well-attended dinner and ceremony at the Weiser Senior Center.

Four men who served in different branches of the military during the Vietnam War were given Quilts of Valor. One was unable to attend for health reasons and his children picked up his Quilt of Valor for him. All the quilts were made by women in the community.

The generation that was called to travel to distant Southeast Asia was forgotten, said local Elks member Quincy Walla, who said he was not a veteran of the war but was thankful for those who served during those turbulent times.

"These men and women served in a time of great political and cultural upheaval. They were called to serve their country and the people of their country failed to serve them. While others returning from previous wars were treated to tickertape parades, thankful receptions and loving support from friends and families, these outstanding Americans came home to quiet airports, bus and train stations, and sometimes hostile environments," Walla said.

Barbara Goff, who made one of the quilts presented on Saturday, said regardless of where anybody stands politically, "We accept our warriors and veterans with open arms and open hearts."

"Our mission is to cover all of our warriors and veterans who have been touched by war with our healing and comforting who represents Weiser, has said he would like to see passing lanes on the stretch of U.S. 95 between Payette and Weiser. He got ITD officials to make a trip to Weiser to listen to local government officials and their concerns about the highway.

"That's what I am trying to get done," he said. "They agreed to check it out. They are interested in discussing it."

Kerby said he considers the stretch of highway between Payette and Weiser unsafe and called it the "world's longest curve." He said it is the neediest road in his legislative district from Parma to New Meadows.

Kerby said he will attend the meeting with ITD in Weiser to hear what local officials have to say, including Washington County, the city of Weiser and others.

Nothing will happen overnight even if ITD agreed to put in passing lanes. It takes three to four years to do the required studies and then the design and engineering and the rights of way. It's unknown if passing lanes could be constructed on the west side of the highway along the railroad right of way.

Washington County

Commissioner Tom Anderson said he wants ITD to plug some money in its 2020 road plan to do upgrades on U.S. 95. The highway to the north and south has been upgraded to four lanes, but nothing's been done between Payette and Weiser.

"We just want to sit down and give them our side of the story about why we should be included in 2020 funding, he said. "This area down here just doesn't seem to be getting any love."

Anderson also cited the lack of passing lanes and pullouts as safety issues. He invited the sheriff's from Payette and Washington counties to give their input on the highway, along with school district transportation officials.

Weiser Mayor Diana Thomas said 65 miles an hour is too fast on the stretch of U.S. 95 between Weiser and Payette particularly during harvest season when truck traffic is heavier. The speed limit was lowered from Fruitland to the 1-84 exchange, and that stretch of U.S. 95 is also four lanes, which is safer than two.

Thomas said she will support Kerby's push for passing lanes on the highway between Weiser and Payette. The city also wants a stoplight on U.S. 95 at Main Street.

ITD did a traffic study at the city's request to see if a traffic signal was warranted at the intersection of Main Street and U.S. 95. The agency said the volume met the criteria for a signal and asked the city to pay half of the bill, Thomas said.

During some times of the day, and times of the year, it's unsafe for pedestrians to try to cross five lanes of U.S. 95 to get to the east side of town. The highway is too busy and vehicles are going too fast. Heavier trucks require even more distance to stop, the mayor said.

"People don't slow down. It's scary sometimes," she said.

"We would really like to see U.S. 95 safer in the city and going to Payette."

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Original Publication Date: August 12, 2015

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