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Vietnam Veterans invited to belated “welcome home” Thursday at Fort Campbell Army Base

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Vietnam veterans will receive a proper “welcome home” this Thursday, in a special ceremony at Fort Campbell Army base. Organizers say the event aims to celebrate and thank service members, many of whom were scorned when they first came home from the war decades ago.

Memphis resident and Vietnam veteran Harold Beaver is traveling to Fort Campbell to participate, and said this kind of commemoration is long overdue.

According to the National Archives, 58,148 American soldiers were killed and more than 300,000 wounded in the Vietnam War. (Photo from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“When we got back to the states, people at that time, they were still, you know, spitting on us,” Beaver said. “They were doing things that just showed dishonor, because we were participating in an occupation or war that people here in the States didn’t approve of.”

The event is free, but organizers suggest arriving up to two hours before the 2 p.m. ceremony to allow time for processing through security and getting to the event location on base. More information is available at states.AARP.org/tennessee.

Stacy Pennington, outreach director at AARP Tennessee, said this veterans’ welcome home event is a first for Fort Campbell.

“So, at the hanger, Hanger 3, it will be really neat. At 2:00, they’ll have the Vietnam veterans behind a closed gate. They’ll open that gate and everybody will be inside the hanger. And we will give them a proper ‘welcome home’ – like we do currently when our men and women come home from service now,” Pennington said.

Nearly 290,000 veterans live in Kentucky. Around 36% of them served in Vietnam, according to data from the Housing Assistance Council.

Beaver said seeing people make time to celebrate and welcome him and fellow veterans has affected him profoundly.

“It’s just heart-wrenching to see the support, and people waving, giving high-fives and saying, ‘Thank you for your service’ – something that didn’t happen 50 years ago,” Beaver said.

On September 20, the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs will sponsor a commemoration ceremony in Frankfort to honor Korean War veterans. More information about that event is available at veterans.ky.gov.

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