The widespread disdain over the Vietnam War meant that veterans returning home didn’t receive a heroes’ welcome. For some, this caused a sense of shame that worsened the difficulties that military members often face when transitioning to civilian life. And while the war ended almost 40 years ago, some service members at Joint Base Lewis McCord in Tacoma, Wash. wanted to show their appreciation to those vets that fought in Vietnam.
So they threw a big welcome-home party to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. (According to a presidential proclamation, the 50th anniversary of this long-running conflict can be observed any time between 2012 and 2025.) More than 2,500 veterans and their families packed the JBLM parade field and retired General Barry McCaffrey spoke to the crowd, which included representatives of all branches of the military.
“It is never too late, never too late, to pay tribute to the men and women who served and continue to serve our country,” I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza tells Adam Ashton of The News Tribune.
Veteran Stephen Stribling returned from Vietnam in 1968 and was moved by the long-delayed tribute. “I’m like a baby to something like this. It’s so unreal,” he says.
Seventy-nine-year-old Magnum Tulto, an Army veteran, was similarly delighted by the honor. “When we came home as Vietnam veterans, they didn’t like us. I’m glad they like us now,” he tells Ashton.
One Army Lieutenant Colonel, Jeff Schmidt, brought his Vietnam Veteran father-in-law all the way across the country from Coral Springs, Fla. to attend the salute. “I feel it’s important to give them the welcome home that soldiers get today. They served our country just as honorably as us,” Schmidt says.