Legion hosts ‘Welcome Home’ party for Vietnam veterans
STEVENSVILLE — Although it rained nearly all day and into the evening Saturday, Oct. 8, it did not dampen the spirit or goal of the day — “Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans!” Kent Island American Legion, Post 278, in Stevensville, hosted a celebration, recognizing the sacrifices of those military personnel who served during the Vietnam War. This was the second year for the celebration. Last year, the Department of Defense designated 2015 — 2017 as the 50th anniversary of the ending of the Vietnam War.
The war, which the U.S. government inherited from the French in the late 1950s during the Eisenhower administration, was an attempt to prevent the spread of communism is Southeast Asia. First, military advisors were sent to the Republic of South Vietnam (noncommunist) to assist them in fighting back against North Vietnam (communist) which was receiving military support from Communist China and the then-communist Soviet Union (Russia).
Following the death of President John F. Kennedy, the war escalated under President Lyndon B. Johnson, who sent 500,000 American soldiers to fight directly against the communists in Vietnam. As the war escalated overseas, huge civilian demonstrations against the war took place in the U.S.
While the war was raging, U.S. military personnel returning home were openly mistreated by demonstrators waiting at airports and outside military bases around the nation. The soldiers were criticized for participating in the war.
Years after the war ended, many Americans began to recognized soldiers, from all ages in history, as essential people that provide the nation with and defend our freedoms. When other wars came in later years, Vietnam veterans were on the front lines to make sure the soldiers who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other military conflicts, were treated as heroes when they returned home, rather than the way Vietnam veterans had been treated.
“Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans” event coordinator, Past Post 278 Commander Nikki Randolph spoke Saturday afternoon, saying, “I want to thank all of you Vietnam veterans for your service!”
With her voice cracking with emotion, Randolph continued, “We remember how you were treated, and we learned an important lesson. Our military personnel are the ones responsible for our freedoms. You’re the heroes. When other conflicts have happened over the years, you Vietnam veterans stood up and said, Never again! We won’t allow our soldiers to be treated like you were treated. We thank you for helping us understand how we must appreciate those who defend our nation and our values.”
Current Post Commander Curt Kersey added his own thanks and said, “Today is all about those of you who served in Vietnam. Welcome home!”
Randolph introduced Boy Scout Troop 278 Life Scout Ryan Conway, who, for his Eagle Scout Service Project, organized the building of a Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Burn Pit, made from bricks and placing it behind the Legion out in the open field. Ryan raised more than $2,300 for the supplies it took to build it. Donations were made by the Legion, the KI Elks, family and friends. Other members of the troop assisted in building it.
Ryan lit the first fire in the pit and asked all of the Vietnam veterans to gather around it with him. His grandfather, U.S. Air Force veteran John Wright, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam, 1966-1970, was present for the dedication ceremony.
Following the ceremony, events continued until late into the evening at the post. Meals were served, including Charlie’s Chicken. Live music was provided by the Wyes Guys Band and the Wild Grey Hairs Band.
There has been discussion about concluding the Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans celebration next year, hosting a parade for the veterans. Details have not been decided.
Vietnam veterans gather Around the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Burn Pit, dedicated during the “Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans” celebration, Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Kent Island American Legion, Post 278, in Stevensville. The fire pit was the Eagle Scout Service Project built by Life Scout Ryan Conway of Troop 278.
The musical duo Wyes Guys, Greg Remesch, left, and Brian Walterhoefer perform Saturday afternoon, Oct. 8, during the Kent Island American Legion’s “Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans” celebration.