Welcome home parade held for Vietnam War veterans
CARTHAGE, New York (WWNY) - When soldiers returned from Vietnam, many of them didn’t receive a warm welcome. Now, Carthage’s American Legion is aiming to make up for that, starting with a parade.
Folks lined State Street Tuesday. They waved flags and extended a single message to Vietnam veterans: “Welcome home.”
“It’s tough because it’s not enough,” said Janice Gravely, Carthage American Legion Post 789.
The parade was meant to mend old wounds since, at best, many soldiers were received with indifference 50 years ago. At worst, they faced vitriol from the public.
“We cannot correct what we failed to do in the past but we’re just trying to let them know that they are welcome home,” said Gravely.
Many of them were barely out of their teens at the time.
“I went in the service in 1964, 17 years old,” said Vietnam veteran Ignacio Diaz.
Diaz was one of about a dozen Vietnam War veterans who took part in the parade. He said it feels good to be finally recognized.
“When I came back from Vietnam in 1968, it wasn’t like this at all. It took years. It took me a lot longer for me to come around,” he said.
March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day, a day meant to pay tribute to veterans of the Vietnam War. The last American troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973.
For some veterans, the treatment they received half a century ago still stings.
“It’s kind of 50 years too late but at least someone is trying to get some recognition out for us now. So all is good,” said Vietnam veteran Doug Babcock.
For the younger soldiers who took part in the parade, it was a chance to learn from their elders
“I always hear about it in school but I’ve never had to witness it for myself. I’m very honored to talk to them and learn about their stories,” said SPC Salmata Bah, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.
Gravely says she hopes this parade becomes a yearly event.
On Wednesday at 11 a.m., the legion will host a veteran’s appreciation ceremony at St. James Church.
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