Flora thanks Vietnam Veterans at bridge naming ceremony

Delegate Nick Rush and Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora help members of the Daughters of the American Revolution unveil the sign for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge Aug. 3, 2017, in Radford, Virginia, (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

RADFORD, Va. – Brig. Gen. Lapthe C. Flora, Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General for Army Strategic Initiatives, expressed his appreciation for the service of Vietnam Veterans as the keynote speaker at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge naming ceremony Aug. 3, 2017, in Radford, Virginia. He also assisted members of the General William Campbell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Delegate Nick Rush in unveiling the new sign for the bridge.

“This nation owes a great debt, one infinitely larger than can ever be repaid to our Vietnam Veterans,” Flora said. “Whenever and wherever the nation has called, in times of darkness and danger as well as in times of peace and prosperity, you have been there. You have proudly carried the torch of liberty for all to see.”

Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora delivers the keynote speech at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge dedication ceremony Aug. 3, 2017, in Radford, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)

Rush introduced HB 1741 during the 2017 General Assembly Session to designate the Virginia Route 114 Bridge between Montgomery and Pulaski Counties as the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge.” In response, the DAR General William Campbell Chapter, along with the Alleghany and Pulaski Chapters, arranged for a sign unveiling ceremony.

“I am profoundly grateful to be here today, to personally say thank you to all of you Vietnam veterans here and throughout the United States, for your gift of life to my families and me,” Flora said. “Your patriotism, sacrifices and selfless service to defend my motherland the Republic of Vietnam, to preserve the freedom and our way of life for nearly 20 years, is honorable and just.”

Flora was promoted to brigadier general in June 2016. A native of Saigon, he was the first Vietnamese boat person to be promoted to general officer in the United State Army and the second of Vietnamese descent. Following the Communist capture of Saigon in 1975, Flora and his brothers fled the city to avoid being drafted in to the North Vietnamese military. He spent more than three years in the jungle, then fled by boat to Indonesia where he spent a year living in three separate refugee camps.

Flora said he forever indebted to Vietnam veterans and the United States for this “priceless gift of freedom.”

“You are guardians of peace, a bulwark of liberty and the beacon of light for those in dark places,” he said. “I know this to be true all too well, because I was one of those in such dark places. The universal cry for freedom we are seeing in the world today is in no small part due to the example you set on those distance battlefields.”

Flora said that brave Vietnam veterans at the ceremony as well as those around the country are heroes of his generation because they faithfully answered the call when their nation needed them and have served honorably without much appreciation from their fellow countrymen back home.

“They fought in one of the toughest wars that our country and the world have ever seen, they fought gallantly against a ruthless and illusive enemy who valued no international norm and fought under the most miserable battlefield conditions while facing an enemy they couldn’t see,” he said. “Despite all these odds, they never lost a single battle. They are courageous patriots, fearless in war and gentle in peace. We owe more than we can ever repay you and your families. We the grateful must ensure that your sacrifice was not in vain.”

When he arrived in the U.S., he quickly learned English and finished his high school education in only three years. After high school Flora attended the Virginia Military Institute where he earned a bachelor’s degree and commission in the U. S. Army Reserve in 1987. He has served in a variety of leadership positions in the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 29th Infantry Division and commanded at the company, battalion and brigade level. He has successfully completed three overseas deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

In his civilian capacity, Flora is the Senior Applications Engineer with Night Vision business of Harris Corporation in Roanoke, and holds six patent awards related to the AN/PVS-14 and AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles.

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