“Welcome Home” Vietnam Veterans; A greeting they developed for themselves

Vietnam Veterans Day background with American flag - cm

By Steve Bates

March 29th of every year is now set aside as Vietnam Veterans Day by Presidential Proclamation in 2012 and by Congressional action in 2017.  In Oregon, by state law, March 30th is Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.

The first Vietnam Veterans Day was deemed to be March 29th 50 years ago by President Richard Nixon.  It celebrated the first year anniversary of the United States Military withdrawal from Vietnam in accordance with the January, 1973 Paris Peace Accords.  March 29, 1973 was the day the last combat troops left Vietnam.

The first Vietnam Veterans Day in 1974 was ignored by most.  There was no pomp or circumstance.  Most Vietnam veterans themselves were still confused about their treatment upon their return from serving their country with dignity and honor.

I have been in several meetings over the years where Vietnam veterans shared their experiences.

One Vietnam Veteran stated that he and others wanted to be invisible upon their return to avoid strife and confrontations.  Many would not admit they served in the military let alone in Vietnam.

No one told them thank you.  No one acknowledged their service.  Another said, we were abandoned by the generals, we were abandoned by the politicians and we were abandoned by the public. 

In another venue, a Vietnam veteran said he was called a baby killer.  Another said he was attacked in the San Francisco airport because he wore his Air Force uniform which was a requirement for free airline passage home. 

Others talked about the verbal abuse they received from family members, World War II and Korean War veterans. 

The natural response was to be invisible and keep their service to themselves.

As time passed, the Vietnam veterans learned to identify each other.  They started greeting themselves with “Welcome Home”. 

It is important that we embrace that greeting for our Vietnam veterans.  It is a way of acknowledging their service and the poor treatment they received for doing their duty in an unpopular war.  It is shameful that we did not actively and collectively recognize our Vietnam veterans appropriately until the start of the 21st century, about 25 years after the end of the war.

The Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds will be one of the few Vietnam memorials in the country to have this greeting engraved in granite.  This will be Oregon’s monument to the heroes who gave their all in Vietnam and all who made it home in their military uniforms.

In addition, the Vietnam memorial will include a sculpture of a returning Vietnam veteran by Libby Carruth, a Portland based artist.  This sculpture captures the frustration of the soldier who did his job and came home to an ungrateful nation.

You can see the plans for the memorial on the website at:  www.ocvvm.com

You can help us say “Welcome Home” with a contribution to the Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds.

Contributions can be made by credit card on the website or by sending a check to:

Vietnam War Memorial Fund – P O Box 1448 – Boring, Oregon  97009

About the author: 

Steve Bates has resided in Boring for 47 years and is a Life Member of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America and an Honorary Life Member of the Vietnam Veterans of America.  He serves as Chair of the Committee on Memorials and Remembrance and President of the Vietnam War Memorial Fund.  He can be reached at: vietnamwarmem@aol.com