Vietnam Traveling Wall triggers emotions

August 27, 2014
Bill Errante

Vietnam veteran Bill Errante stands next to the Traveling Vietnam Wall at the Oceana County Fairgrounds in Hart.

By Allison Scarbrough. Contributing Editor.

HART — As 500-plus bikers converged upon the Oceana County Fairgrounds Wednesday to escort the Vietnam Traveling Wall to Ludington, many of them had interesting stories to tell.

One of those bikers is 65-year-old Dearborn native Bill Errante, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from the effects of Agent Orange. He has diabetes and other health problems as a result of the toxic chemical sprayed during the war. “I’ve got everything,” he said of his health issues.

The wall pays tribute to the 58,000-plus American soldiers killed in the horrifying war. Errante is one who survived, but with a price.

“People don’t realize how many people got killed in the war,” he said. “They deserve the respect. A lot of those guys came home and got spit on.”

vietnam wall 2

One of several hundred patriotic bikers who escorted the Traveling Vietnam Wall from Hart to Ludington.

Errante was a 20-year-old college student at Henry Ford Community College when he got drafted. Because he was attending school part-time, he was not exempt from the draft. One of his friends, Don Rowley, got drafted just before he did. “He was in tears when he told me about it,” Errante recalled. Rowley, who was in the 101st Airborne Unit, was killed in Vietnam when a scout tossed an explosive in his bunker. Rowley’s friend, Mike Beldini, was in the bunker with him and also died, Errante said. The wall pays tribute to brave men like Rowley and Beldini who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.

Errante was trained in artillery but ended up becoming a property book typing clerk due to his expert typing skills. He took typing courses in both high school and college and could type a speedy 45 words per minute. “Typing saved my life,” he said.

Even though he avoided battling on the front lines due to his unique skill, Errante was exposed to deadly Agent Orange. “I was north of Saigon, the heaviest sprayed area of Vietnam.” Errante was also struck by lightning when he was at the top of a guard tower in Vietnam. “I thought I got hit by a rocket,” he recalled.

The veteran, who is a member of the American Legion Riders, worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 32 years and eventually found out about his diabetes in 1999. He served in Vietnam from December of 1969 to November of 1970. “I turned 21 over there,” he said.

Sue Adamski, also a member of the American Legion Riders, is the escort chair for the Traveling Vietnam Wall’s procession from Hart to Ludington along with her husband, Phil Adamski. “There are a lot of combat vets who came home from Vietnam and were not welcomed. This is the welcome home they deserve.”

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