MONTPELIER: August 10, 2014: August 10, 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and the Williams County Veterans Service Organization, headed by Director Mary Oliver, hosted a weekend of grand “Welcome Home” celebrations and memorial activities at the Veterans Memorial Building on the Williams County Fairgrounds in Montpelier on August 9 and 10. The Welcome Home provided an opportunity for all Vietnam Vets to spend some time with their fellow vets and enjoy some chow while exchanging experiences from their wartime service and remembering their fallen comrades. The weekend also provided an opportunity to reflect on the 14 service members from Williams County who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.
Reflecting back on the Vietnam War, it is important to remember the challenges and difficulties returning warriors encountered upon their return home. In contrast with today’s military doctrine of unit rotation in and out of war zones where deployment of forces are accomplished by “units in and out of the war zone” together, Vietnam Veterans generally rotated in and out of the conflict on an individual basis, bringing up a host of issues that made returning home difficult and lonely for many. When today’s military units return from wartime service, returning warriors are greeting with celebrations and lots of fanfare welcoming them home and honoring their service-for the Vietnam Veteran returning home following their service, many returned without fanfare, and encountered a hostile reception due to the lack of support at home. It was not uncommon during the Vietnam Conflict for a service member to be in the bush fighting and 72 hours later landing back home for separation from their service commitment. Few encountered a “thank you” for their service and a nation torn by internal conflict failed these American Heroes.
This weekend’s 50th “Welcome Home” represents recognition of the tremendous sacrifices our Vietnam Vets made in service to their nation. Saturday’s activities began at the Veterans Memorial with breakfast and welcome for the many Vets in attendance, followed by the entrance of the Legion Riders carrying the National Colors and the MIA Flag remembering those who remain unaccounted for during the conflict. Once assembled, a moment of silence was held as the participant’s gathered around the Memorial’s Flagpoles. Also on hand for attendees and making its entrance was a Huey Helicopter, one of the most famous symbols of the era. The Huey was available for rides throughout the 2-day event.
Other activities over the weekend included a lecture by Gary Jones from the Veterans Initiative Task Force-Trips To Vietnam, and a Saturday evening showing of the movie “We Were Soldiers Once” in the Memorial Hall. Sunday’s festivities opened with a 10:00 a.m. Chapel Service, followed by a packed house for the 11:30 lunch. The day closed out with “The Ceremony of the Boots,” with “In Remembrance of You” by Beth Brogan, the invocation, scripture and selected songs. The highlight of the afternoon was the “Last Roll Call” read by Colonel Karl Mauerhan followed by a 21-gun salute and taps.