Pinning ceremony in Charlotte Hall honors Vietnam veterans
Pinning ceremony in Charlotte Hall part of 50th anniversary event
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.”
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.