Veterans receive long-due recognition
STEUBENVILLE — “Welcome home.”
That was the message at the sixth annual Steubenville Vietnam Veterans Day Program on Friday afternoon at the Prime Time Senior Center,
The program honors and recognizes the men and women who fought in the war but never received the warm welcome home.
March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
AMVETS Post 275 organized the program.
Bill Demjan of AMVETS Post 275 said the day is set aside to salute and thank those veterans who served in the Vietnam War.
City Mayor Jerry Barilla said those that served in the brutal war did so with courage and bravery. He said the soldiers, who were either drafted or enlisted, left this country to go to another culture and were willing to sacrifice their life for the people of South Vietnam.
He said the memories of the war still haunt the veterans today.
“It is so fitting and humbling to say welcome home from the residents of the Tri-State Area,” the mayor said.
State Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, said his father and his father’s friends were Vietnam War veterans.
“These were the guys who brought me up.
“My father instilled in me honor and courage. When my dad came home, he was my hero. Welcome home boys,” Hoagland said.
Hoagland said he became a Navy SEAL because he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and do as much as he could for his country.
Dan Wilson, commander of AMVETS Post 275, said veterans of other wars came home to parades. He said the Vietnam War veterans have to be recognized.
Jack Ernest of the Jefferson County Veterans Service Commission served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. He said Vietnam War veterans returned home to cursing and violence. He said veterans returned home with what today is called post traumatic stress disorder.
“But we were trained to carry on –to stay as positive as we can about life. No one can know what we lived with, what we carried around day by day,” he said.
Ernest said there are less than 800,000 Vietnam War veterans alive today.
“We are the living legends, but we don’t ask for anything. Let us live out our last days. Thanks for honoring us. It means so much. We are so grateful for that. We are the old guys left. We walk proudly with our heads up. We are not ashamed to claim the title of Vietnam veteran. Those that didn’t come back will always be in our hearts and minds,” he said.
The Allegheny Angles, a group of singers from various schools and churches, said a selection of period, religious and patriotic songs.
Wilson passed the microphone around at the end of the program for Vietnam War veterans to state their name and their branch of service.