Skip to comments.Vietnam Veterans given heroes’ welcome
Posted on 09/04/2010 5:55:35 PM PDT by SLB
On Aug. 26, Fort Knox hosted the first of many community events in the area that honored Vietnam veterans and gave them the warm welcome home they deservedbut few receivedfrom 1964 to 1975.
Approximately 1,000 veterans turned out and were greeted by 2,500 flag-waving, sign-holding, cheering Soldiers, family members, civilian employees, and contractors who lined
the route that the Vietnam veterans convoy of buses and motorcycles took to Brooks Parade Field for the 10 a.m. ceremony.
The veterans who were physically able marched onto the field through an honor cordon formed by Fort Knox Junior ROTC cadets. The audience applauded for the entire 15 minutes it took for the veterans to move from the parking lots to their places of honor on the field.
To the delight of the veterans, three vintage aircraft flew over the crowd; an OH-6 helicopter, also known as a Loach; an AH-1 attack helicopter, also called the Cobra gunship; and the most recognizeable, the workhorse of Vietnam, a UH-1H or Huey. The choppers flew low and slow over the field, then landed a safe distance away. The aircraft and pilots remained after the ceremony, joining others in the static equipment displays to allow the guests of honor the opportunity to talk with them.
Thank you from the Heartland: A Salute to Vietnam Veterans was the theme for the series of events scheduled throughout the communities surrounding Fort Knox last week. Following the ceremony, the post Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Directorate provided a free lunch at Brooks Field, and veterans were invited to visit the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall which was on display at the Gen. George Patton Museum, expressly scheduled by the local community to coincide with the posts ceremony.
In his invocation, Fort Knox Chaplain (Col.) Roger Criner called the Vietnam veterans true American heroes. Chaplain Criner served as a combat medic in Vietnam and concluded his prayer with a loud Welcome home, welcome home, hooah, and Amen, and then walked out to join his fellow Vietnam veterans in the field.
The days host was Fort Knox and Accessions Commander Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley. His speech was frequently interrupted by cheers, applause, and more than a few hooahs.
Lt. Gen. Freakley quoted Virginia U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, who wrote a commentary that appeared in The American Enterprise entitled Heroes of the Vietnam Generation. Lt. Gen. Freakley recounted Webbs comment that the Vietnam generation is a misnomer because those who served in Vietnam were very different from their age group peers who opted to stay home.
For most of those who served Woodstock was a side show, Lt. Gen. Freakley said, quoting Webb. College protesters were spoiled brats who would have benefited from having to work a few jobs in order to pay their tuition.
That remark drew a thunderous ovation from the veterans. Once the applause died down, Lt. Gen. Freakley went on to explain to the Vietnam vets how much todays Army owes them.
We are the best led, the best manned, the best equipped, the best trained, and best supported Army our nation has ever fielded and the best Army in the world because of you, he said. Probably most importantly, you instilled in us the Army values that we try to live up to today.
The generals remarks were interrupted again when he told the veterans, Youre home youre home.
A heartfelt hooah erupted from a Soldier standing in formation with his unit the 19th Engineer Battalion. The main body of the battalion redeployed from Iraq four months ago, while one of its companies, the 502nd Engineers, returned just days before the ceremony. Most of the crowd understood that the generals comment held a different meaning for the younger Soldiers than the veterans, and laughter erupted throughout the stands.
Today you can look out at any formation like that one to your left the 19th Engineer Battalion, combat hardened, all volunteer Soldiers, young men and women, just back from combat. You can look at them and say with pride, We built that force. Todays military stands on the shoulders of giants your shoulders, he said.
After the generals remarks, the 19th Engineer Battalion passed in review. As the unit marched by, the battalion commander saluted and the Soldiers eyes right faced the veterans contingent rather than the customary command group. The ceremonial respect was not lost on the veterans, who applauded the Soldiers.
Saturday, the Vietnam veterans were honored in the Heartland Festival with a parade through Elizabethtown and a miniature Camp Saigon erected at Freeman Lake Park. Adrian Cronauer, who was the subject of Robin Williams biographical film Good Morning, Vietnam, and Fort Knox Medical Commander Col. Ronald Place were featured in an afternoon ceremony.
Neighboring Vine Grove hosted an evening barbecue and ceremony, with the featured speaker Brig. Gen. Robin Akin, the commander of Knoxs 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
Radcliff hosted a day of fun, games, exhibits, and free food for Vietnam veterans Friday. The Radcliff ceremony featured speeches from 19th Engineer Battalion Commander Lt. Col. David Ray and a 9/11 survivor, retired Sgt. Maj. Tony Rose.
Following the Knox ceremony, one veteran said he was moved by the sight of school children waving flags as part of the crowd lining the motorcade route.
Others enjoyed the 60s music played by the rock combo from Knoxs 113th Army Band, and a few of the veterans coaxed their partners to dance on the grassy apron in front of the performers.
Box lunches were served and many enjoyed sitting on the ground and visiting with younger Soldiers in an informal picnic setting. As a young, active duty NCO chatted with two Vietnam vets, he said they had no trouble making a connection.
We may have worn different uniforms, but we have a lot in common, he said. Once a Soldier, always a Soldier.
1/1 CAV AMERICAL I CORPS RVN ´68-69
Reading that story made my screen get blurry. God bless you and your fellow VN vets. You are heroes one and all.
Those were horrible times, for those who served, and those who waited. So glad to see that you all are getting the kudos you so well deserve. Good for the Ft Knox community.
919th Engr Co /3-11 ACR 1970/1971
D Co 39th Engr BN 1971
SLB, THANK YOU for your service to our great country! The sacrifices made by you and your family to help keep the rest of us safe and free are so greatly appreciated!
I think back to the 1960’s when I walked down 5th ave in NYC in a march, organized by a man named Charlie Wiley, to show support for our military in Viet Nam. I thanked God for all of you then and I do the same now....God bless all of our military and their families....past and present.
It sure is about time! How wonderful that this was done, and even though late...I am sure every Vietnam Vet felt so appreciated. Sure seems that a lot of planning and coordination went into this to make it so successful. God Bless our Men and Women who serve our country.
I went through basic at Fort Ord and through second 8 weeks at Fort Ord. I will never forget Louisville!:)
Thanks for posting this. It makes ME feel as if I’ve come home, even if vicariously!
Thank you for your lovely compliment in Freepmail Onyx! It may have gone to ‘all’ so I mention it here.
I was careful, but if it went to all, that’s all right too!
Lol, I didn’t know but didn’t want anyone to think I had ignored you!
‘bout freaking time they got a ‘home coming’ - Heroes, one and all
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