Pin­ning cer­e­mony in Char­lotte Hall honors Viet­nam vet­er­ans

Pin­ning cer­e­mony in Char­lotte Hall part of 50th an­niver­sary event

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By GRETCHEN PHILLIPS gphillips@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @GretchenEn­tNews

Den­nis Brown, a Viet­nam vet­eran and res­i­dent of the Char­lotte Hall Vet­er­ans Home, re­called his not-so-friendly wel­come home from the war.

“I re­mem­ber walk­ing through the air­port in San Fran­cisco. Just the looks I got from peo­ple made me feel cold and un­wel­come, as if I wasn’t there,” he said of his re­turn in 1970 from serv­ing in the Army in Viet­nam.

And Brown said once he got back to the East Coast, to his home in Prince Ge­orge’s County, it wasn’t much dif­fer­ent.

The wel­come he re­ceived 46 years later at the lo­cal vet­er­ans home dur­ing a “Wel­come Home Viet­nam Vet­er­ans” pin­ning cer­e­mony hosted in part­ner­ship with the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Bal­ti­more Re­gional Ben­e­fits Of­fice on March 29 was much dif­fer­ent, he said in a phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day.

“I had the im­pres­sion and the feel­ing that the peo­ple here gen­uinely cared and thanked us for our ser­vice,” he said.

Viet­nam vet­er­ans at the home were greeted last week by com­mu­nity mem­bers, vol­un­teers and staff who, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the home, lined the halls of the lobby just out­side of where the pin­ning cer­e­mony was to take place wav­ing signs and flags and cheer­ing.

Shirley Vat­ter, a vet­er­ans home vol­un­teer and re­gional vice pres­i­dent of the Ladies Aux­il­iary of the Fleet Re­serve As­so­ci­a­tion, said in a state­ment, “Af­ter the way our Viet­nam vet­er­ans were treated when they re­turned home in the 1960s and ‘70s, I wanted to be here to let them know we do ap­pre­ci­ate what they did for our coun­try and to say thank you.”

Each Viet­nam vet­eran at the cer­e­mony last week, in­clud­ing staff, were pinned by mem­bers of the Bal­ti­more VA lead­er­ship team in recog­ni­tion of their ser­vice. The front of the pin has sym­bols of courage, vic­tory, strength and com­radery. The back reads, “A Grate­ful Na­tion Thanks and Honors You,” ac­cord­ing to the vet­er­ans home.

In a state­ment, U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Bal­ti­more Re­gional Ben­e­fits Of­fice Di­rec­tor An­toine Waller said, “Our com­mem­o­ra­tion to honor Viet­nam vet­er­ans is a part of a 13-year, on­go­ing com­mem­o­ra­tion to mark the 50th an­niver­sary of the Viet­nam War, which spanned from Novem­ber 1st, 1955 to April 30th, 1975, and it serves as an op­por­tu­nity to honor this gen­er­a­tion of vet­er­ans.”

The 50th an­niver­sary of the Viet­nam War com­mem­o­ra­tion be­gan with a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion on May 25, 2012, and will run through Nov. 11, 2025. Dur­ing that time, federal, state and lo­cal of­fi­cials are called to honor Viet­nam vet­er­ans with ap­pro­pri­ate pro­grams, cer­e­monies and ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We honor our Viet­nam vet­er­ans for their sac­ri­fices and our na­tion has a debt of grat­i­tude for their self­less ser­vice to pro­tect our free­doms,” Waller said dur­ing the event.

Wil­lie Bellamy Jr., a Viet­nam vet­eran liv­ing at the vet­er­ans home, said in a phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day that he served two tours dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

He re­called protest demon­stra­tions tak­ing place in 1967, the first time he came home. He re­mem­bers peo­ple demon­strat­ing against the war, call­ing sol­diers baby killers. “I didn’t get too much of a wel­come,” he said, adding “It’s kind of heart­break­ing.”

He said he ap­pre­ci­ated the cer­e­mony last week and the pin he re­ceived. It was a good feel­ing know­ing peo­ple cared about what they did, he said. That wel­come, he said was “heart­warm­ing.”

Brown said he also en­joyed the event. “It was an at­tempt to make us feel that our ef­forts were no­ticed by many peo­ple.”

Dur­ing the cer­e­mony, Mary­land De­part­ment of Sec­re­tary Af­fairs’ Sec­re­tary Ge­orge W. Owings, III, a Viet­nam vet­eran him­self, shared per­sonal sto­ries with fel­low vet­er­ans, ac­cord­ing to the vet­er­ans home, and em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of re­mem­ber­ing those who could not at­tend.

“It’s an honor to have served along­side these brave men and women, and I ap­pre­ci­ate the na­tion­wide sup­port,” Owings said. “I only wish more were able to cel­e­brate with us. We salute those who have passed on.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Viet­nam vet­er­ans at Char­lotte Hall Vet­er­ans Home were re­cently given the warm re­cep­tion they never re­ceived 50 years ago. A “Wel­come Home Viet­nam Vet­er­ans” pin­ning cer­e­mony was hosted at the home in part­ner­ship with the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Bal­ti­more Re­gional Ben­e­fits Of­fice.

Viet­nam Vet­eran John But­ler Jr. re­ceives a warm greet­ing at the Char­lotte Hall Vet­er­ans Home last week dur­ing a “Wel­come Home Viet­nam Vet­er­ans” pin­ning cer­e­mony hosted at the home in part­ner­ship with the U.S. De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Bal­ti­more Re­gional Ben­e­fits Of­fice.

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