'Never too late': Saturday event in Superior honors Vietnam vets
When many Vietnam-era servicemen and women returned home during the 1960s and early '70s they were shunned, spat on or called baby killers. On Saturday, those ignored and vilified veterans will receive the welcome home they never had. State and f...
When many Vietnam-era servicemen and women returned home during the 1960s and early '70s they were shunned, spat on or called baby killers.
On Saturday, those ignored and vilified veterans will receive the welcome home they never had. State and federal veterans departments, veterans groups in the Twin Ports and others are hosting a free, public Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home event at the Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds in Superior from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"Everyone asks, 'Isn't it kind of late?'" said Jeff Hall. "Better late than never, I think."
Hall, a Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs employee, works on welcome-home events for servicemen and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
"But there's never been anything for these guys" locally, he said of Vietnam-era veterans. "The idea has been out there for a long time. Finally we got together a group of people willing to put words to action."
The event includes an opening ceremony at 9 a.m., a tribute ceremony at 1 p.m., a classic car show, motorcycle ride, fair and photo exchange, a POW/MIA hot air balloon and information booths staffed by community service organizations.
"We are really looking to recognize all veterans, but the first priority is the Vietnam veterans," said volunteer Dennis Hughes, who is helping organize the event.
"The core part of it is between 1 and 1:45 p.m.," Hughes said of the event. "That is when we are going to have our mini-program" honoring Vietnam-era veterans.
"My feeling is that it is never too late," said Hughes, who served in Vietnam in 1969-70 as an Army medic. "The committee that works with Jeff and the veterans organizations in Twin Ports agreed that this is the right time and place."
Saturday's event was inspired in part by similar events in the Twin Cities last year and in Green Bay in May. More than 25,000 veterans, family members and supporters gathered at Lambeau Field for "LZ Lambeau" (LZ is military shorthand for "landing zone"). Jim Northrup [featured in this week's Neighbor story on page A8] was one of the speakers at the event in Green Bay where he read several poems.
Organizers said the event was designed to show veterans the gratitude that was lacking when they returned home. It also illustrated the human cost of the war, with 1,244 empty chairs arranged in rows on the field. Each chair represented a Wisconsin resident killed or missing in action in Vietnam.