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News: Vietnam Veterans of Westmoreland County to hold annual Tet party
02/24/2015 - by Brian F. Henry | Trib Total Media
Celebration Saturday, 5 -11 p.m. - Youngwood Volunteer Fire Department social hall - 104 S. Second St. - Admission: $15 per person or $25 per couple - Entertainment by DJ Cindy Gaich, the Diva of Doo-Wop - Tickets are available at the door
By Stacey Federoff
Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Updated 11 hours ago
Things have calmed considerably since 1984, when the Vietnam Veterans of Westmoreland County held its first annual “Tet” party, a fundraiser for the group corresponding to the Vietnamese lunar new year celebration.
When Treasurer Bill Shupe joined in 1988, he remembers hundreds of raucous party-goers draining 18 kegs of beer in one night.
But now with just about 200 people in attendance, the revelers are lucky to finish off one keg.
The veterans sharing memories of their tour in “The 'Nam” are older and calmer, he said.
“Through the '80s and early '90s, they (the parties) were always packed to the hilt,” Shupe said. At one point, military discharge papers were required to get into the event.
Now, the party is open to the public and has changed venues from the Hempfield Hunt Club — which had to relocate because of PennDOT's $50 million improvements to the New Stanton interchange of Interstate 70 — to the Youngwood Volunteer Fire Department social hall.
Shupe, 67, said he hopes veterans and their supporters will join the group Saturday to share stories, participate in a short POW/MIA ceremony, enjoy food and drink and vie for raffle prizes.
Tet is often associated with the Vietnam War because of the Tet Offensive, begun by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army forces Jan. 30, 1968, and one of the largest campaigns of the war.
“The purpose of the Tet party is to celebrate the victory of the American forces over the Communist forces in the 1968 Tet Offensive,” Shupe said. “(It was) a victory which was largely ignored by the media at the time.”
Veterans like Shupe were energized to organize after the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in 1982, he said.
After Shupe, who served in the Army's 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry as a mortarman from September 1968 to August 1969, attended his first Tet party, he was hooked on the group.
“I enjoyed myself, partying with a bunch of guys from 'Nam who knew the speak and had a good time,” Shupe said.
At first, the group decorated the party with crepe paper and balloons, but in recent years it has gone with a more serious theme.
Sandbags, drab green and posters of military units are now the norm, including a bamboo cage to represent conditions suffered by prisoners of war. A DJ plays music from the era throughout the night.
Club officers, including Recording Secretary Bill Albright, Vice President Rich Griser and President Dan Sager, joked at a planning meeting that the best stories from the old parties can't be shared.
Joe Prevenslik, 73, has been part of the group the longest, joining after seeing a booth at the Westmoreland Fair in the mid-80s.
He served two tours of duty in 1966 and 1967 as a rifleman with the Army's 4th Infantry Division.
Prevenslik said the party hasn't changed much, but the people attending have.
“Back then, we was all raw, just like raw recruits in the service,” he said,
He said he enjoys the club's annual trip with the Bedford County chapter to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where he makes sure to find the names of seven comrades killed during the war.