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Vietnam Vets Receive Long-Overdue Hero's Welcome Home
( August 12, 2017)
Author: Randy DeSoto, Western Journalism

Over 100 Vietnam War veterans received a hero’s welcome recently as participants in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.

The flight was conducted by Old Glory Honor Flight and originated in Oshkosh, Wisconsin late last month.

“The Vietnam Vets, they were treated so poorly when they came back. That should have never happened in this country,” Drew MacDonald, president of Old Glory Honor Flight said. “Our motto with Old Glory Honor Flight is it’s never too late to say thank you.”

The trip included visits to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, where they viewed the Changing of the Guard.

The memorial, though controversial at the time of its construction in the early 1980s, has become one of the most visited sites in Washington, with over five million visitors per year. The wall contains the names of 58,318 Americans who gave their lives in service to their country during the Vietnam War.

Many point to its dedication in 1982 as the beginning of the healing of the emotional wounds many Vietnam veterans experienced from fellow Americans, whose responses often ranged from indifference to outright disdain.

“So many Vietnam veterans did not get a welcome home and it seriously affected them, emotionally and mentally,” Medal of Honor recipient Gary Littrell told Fox News‘ Lisa Boothe, who accompanied the vets on the flight.

The memorial on the National Mall not only validated the over 2.7 million veterans who served in Vietnam, but their brothers and sisters-in-arms who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“When I look at those names, they are not names to me,” Littrell said. “They are little 18 and 19-year-old faces, that come back to life temporarily in my heart, my soul and my eyes.”

Chuck “Doc” Landwehr, who served as a medic during the war, was deeply moved by his visit to the wall as part of the Honor Flight.

“I’ve got a few friends on the wall that I wasn’t able to keep alive,” Landwehr said. “There are stories like that from everyone all this wall. I don’t know what to say, I get too choked up.”

On both ends of the trip, the veterans were greeted with crowds of people and displays of honor and respect.

Before they landed at Reagan National Airport in Washington, their imminent arrival was announced over the terminal public address system, prompting many to gather at the gate and welcome the veterans to the nation’s capital.

When they landed back in Oshkosh at the end of the day, thousands were on hand, who had been attending the EAA air show, to cheer the veterans return home.

“That was unbelievable,” said Navy vet John O’Connor, Jr. “I was not expecting that. Even the little kids were welcoming us. When we first came home, no one treated us like we had done anything. And it’s different now. It’s amazing.”

The crew manning the flight, both in the cockpit and the cabin, were American Airlines volunteers.

Among them was Vietnam vet Bruce Ferriss, who served in the 101st Airborne during the war.

“It warms my heart to be with my fellow veterans,” he announced to those on board the flight. “We didn’t get a lot of pats on the back, we didn’t get a lot of thank yous. Well, today that changes.”

Fox News host and Iraq War veteran Pete Hegseth said his generation of fighters owes a debt of gratitude to the Vietnam veterans.

“They’re the reason Iraq vets were welcomed home, even though it was a controversial war. Thankfully, our country has learned a lot from that,” he said.

Joe Plenzler, a spokesman for the American Legion, praised the Honor Flight network for the work they are doing in recognition of veterans’ service.

“It’s always important to recognize the sacrifice and service of veterans, especially ones from the Vietnam generation who were not treated as well as they should have been when they came home,” Plenzler told Western Journalism.

“We applaud the efforts of Honor Flight in bringing those veterans to D.C. and showing them the respect that they deserve.”

Wendy Fleury, who is a member of the board of directors with Old Glory Honor Flight, told Western Journalism, you could see the transformation in the vets’ faces during the course of the day, as they finally receive what they have been longing for since the early 1970s. “There is not one dry eye on those veterans,” she said when they land back in Wisconsin to a hero’s welcome.

“Their whole day is just a release of all these scars, all these wounds that our veterans have had built up inside of them for so long, and it’s all just released in a day.”