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Vietnam Veterans welcomed home during emotional ceremony

Posted on Thursday, April 4, 2024 at 5:41 pm

Linda Martein, center, explains that the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin can be displayed on the veteran’s hats, as well. She presented the pins during a ‘Welcome Home’ ceremony at the M.W. Boudreaux Memorial Visitor Center in Perry, Mo., on Vietnam Veterans Day last Friday. Photo by Stan Schwartz


By Stan Schwartz

It was decades in the making, but last Friday, on Vietnam Veterans Day, a small group of Vietnam veterans were given the hero’s welcome home they deserved.

“We are all gathered here this morning because our nation, in a time of need, called on you to serve our country, and you all so bravely answered that call,” said Morgan McLaughlin, a representative from Community Loving Care Hospice. Her group partnered with We Honor Veterans to hold the Welcome Home ceremony at the M.W. Boudreaux Memorial Visitor Center in Perry, Mo.

A strong contingent of the Patriot Guard Riders, some of whom are Vietnam veterans, stood guard at the center’s entrances to welcome everyone to the ceremony. Each carried a U.S. flag, and came to the front of the center’s main room to honor those who also served.

McLaughlin added that, “You, our Vietnam veterans, endured unimaginable hardships, made countless sacrifices, and took on heavy burdens, which you may still carry with you today.”

Many of these veterans were not treated well when they returned home.

“Despite your service to our country, to our people, we as a nation failed you upon your arrival home,” McLaughlin said. “While we may never be able to correct the mistakes of years’ past and the harm that those misdoings caused, we hope to use today as an opportunity to honor you and give you the welcome home that you have always deserved.”

Even though only a few veterans from the Perry area attended the ceremony, McLaughlin wanted all Vietnam veterans to know that this ceremony was for them, as well. She thanked the Patriot Guard Riders for their service and support. The all-volunteer group works to ensure dignity and respect at memorial services.

Chaplain Mark Burkey led the group in prayer.

“Today, we especially remember our Vietnam veterans,” he said during his prayer. “They were led into battle, often in seemingly impossible circumstances. They fought either on the front lines or in critical support roles, and they fought bravely. These young soldiers returned home to their homeland for which they had fought. Too often they were mocked in the streets.”

He, too, wanted to honor these veterans.

“May these moments be a reminder to them that there are many who are grateful for their service,” Burkey added. “Bless the men and women who served when called upon.”

McLaughlin asked Linda Martein, a representative of Quilts of Valor, to come forward for the pinning ceremony. Martein’s group partners with the Vietnam War Commemoration Commission.

Martein said the commission was authorized by Congress, established under the secretary of defense, and launched in 2012.

“Its primary purpose,” she said, “is thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.”

A presidential proclamation issued in 2017, was to honor the 9 million service members who served during that time, and to remember them for future generations. The Vietnam War Recognition Act was signed that same year.

“We vow never again to confuse personal disapproval of war with prejudice against those who honorably wear the uniform of our armed forces,” she read.

She added that the nation would continue to respect all Vietnam veterans.

Those veterans in the audience were asked to come forward to receive the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. It is presented on behalf of a grateful nation to living U.S. veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces at any time between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, regardless of location of service, Martein explained.

“No distinction is made between those who served in-country, in-theater or stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam era,” Martein said. “All were called to service. … All were seen the same way by a country that could not separate the war from the warrior.”

She also noted that they were also there to honor the more than 58,000 souls, “who in President Abraham Lincoln’s words, ‘Gave their last full measure of devotion.’” They are memorialized on The Wall in Washington, D.C.

The veterans stood tall to receive their lapel pins.

The visitor center also holds special meaning because on its grounds is housed the Northeast Missouri Vietnam Memorial. Built to resemble a sundial, it overlooks Mark Twain Lake with its commemorative plaques touched by the passing shadow of the gnomon.

After the ceremony, McLaughlin invited the audience to tour the memorial and enjoy some light refreshment