Minnesota Vietnam veterans who did not receive a proper welcome home were invited to a ceremony in their honor at the Hastings Veterans Home.
According to the Hastings Star Gazette, the community put on a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War, welcoming home Vietnam veterans and the rededication of a POW/MIA plaque next to a newly-planted tree, an effort of the community to honor the veterans who did not receive the warmest of welcomes when they came home.
Rick Kleis, who was 18 when he went to Vietnam, says he is happy to have done his duty.
“After 20-some years of being in the shadows, in the closet so to speak, it’s nice to come out into the public-sphere and not necessarily be recognized but not be ostracized either,” Kleis said. “Some of the men and women that came back truly experienced some real terrible incidents with the radicalized public that took their angers out on the veterans.”
Keynote speaker and veteran Lee Ulferts says that he knows many veterans who never got to heal, and hopes the ceremony will assist in doing so.
Ulferts was not welcomed home, and almost protested doing so for Desert Storm veterans in 1991. It wasn’t until he attended the ceremony that he began to heal himself, when a woman realized he was a veteran and gave him a hug.
“And I’ll tell you, I hadn’t cried like that in years,” Ulferts said. “I mean, that was the first time and I’ve never, ever forgotten that.”
Veterans who attended the event were given bronze pins in commemoration of the ceremony. The event follows President Obama’s proclamation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
Commemorations have sprung up around the country in an effort “to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions we have ever faced,” according to the proclamation.
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