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March 29, 2013

Vietnam veterans finally get official welcome home

State officially thanks Vietnam veterans in much-delayed tribute

Welcome home.

Many Vietnam War veterans have waited decades to hear those two words.

They wanted to hear them when they returned from overseas some 40 years ago. Instead, many veterans said, they were treated rudely and often felt ashamed to have served their country.

That’s starting to change, however belated the gratitude might be.

Tomorrow, the state will officially recognize and thank Vietnam War veterans in Concord. The event comes a year after March 30 was recognized as Vietnam Veterans Day by the state Legislature.

“It’s about time,” said Lance Reynolds, 67, of Salem, who served as a petty officer in the Navy from 1965 to 1969. “They’re finally starting to make up for it.”

Mike Horn, director of the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, is a driving force behind the event. The cemetery already hosts celebrations on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Yesterday, Horn said he thought it was appropriate to specifically honor the approximately 44,000 Vietnam veterans living in New Hampshire, most now in their 60s and 70s.

”This opportunity presented itself to us,” Horn said. “So we decided to make Vietnam veterans a focal point.”

March 30 marks the anniversary of the day that the U.S. officially withdrew all of its troops.

Originally, the ceremony was going to be held at the cemetery. But the response was so great, it was moved to the N.H. Army Guard Aviation Flight Facility.

”We expect between 800 to 1,000 people to be there,” Horn said. “This really became a lot bigger than we thought.”

That may be because of the cool, sometimes cruel, reception those soldiers received so many years ago.

Some Vietnam veterans recalled the lavish parades and celebrations held for World War II veterans. They said they were expecting the same, but instead were disheartened by the public’s response to their service.

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