Veteran says: Don’t discriminate against those who didn’t see combat
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Carey Spearman, a Vietnam War veteran, served during the Tet Offensive in 1968, one of that war’s most famous battles. But he said he thinks military veterans who didn’t see combat are often overlooked when it comes to honors and recognition.
“If you signed up to serve, you did your duty, even if you weren’t shipped to a war zone. You still did your duty,” Spearman told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle during a visit to the Brooklyn Veterans Administration Medical Center in Bay Ridge on Tuesday.
Spearman was there to witness the unveiling of a plaque that he helped create. The plaque was created by sculptor Robert Salimeni who worked with Spearman on the design.
US Rep. Michael Grimm, a US marine who served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, did the honors as the plaque was officially presented to hospital officials the day after Veterans Day. The ceremony, which was attended by VA Director Martina Parauda and a group of veterans, took place in the rotunda of the medical center at 800 Poly Place. The medical center is located next door to the US Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton.
Made of black granite, the plaque contains the logos of all five branches of the military. There are images of homes engraved at the bottom, as well as a road and a globe. The idea, according to Spearman, is to recognize that military men and woman who are sent to any part of the world in the service of their country are to be honored for their service. The homes symbolize the sacrifices made by their families, he said.
Salimeni also engraved a message on the plaque. “No matter what your job was or where you were stationed you went where you were sent and you did your job the best you could,” it reads.
“Sometimes, I think people look down on veterans who didn’t go to war and that’s just not right,” Spearman said. Sadly, war veterans often feel superior to those who wore the uniform of their country but didn't serve in a war zone, he added.
Spearman, who lives on Staten Island, but comes to the VA for medical care (the facility serves veterans from Staten Island as well as Brooklyn), said he approached Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island) two years ago with the idea of using art to pay tribute to all veterans, regardless of status. Grimm signed onto the idea immediately, got in touch with VA officials, and got Spearman together with Salimeni.
Salimeni, who also makes hand carvings, said he liked working with Spearman. “The whole thing was inspired by him. I just followed along,” he told the Eagle.
Grimm said he was impressed by the plaque and its message. “It’s not just the combat veterans who sacrificed. Those who were sent on humanitarian missions also sacrificed; their families too,” Grimm said. “This recognition is long overdue,” he added.
The plaque will be placed on a wall in the rotunda, Parauda said. It will be widely seen, she predicted. “This is the main thoroughfare to get back and forth to get between the two buildings that make up the VA Medical Center,” she said.