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Boiling Springs group welcomes home Vietnam veterans

Thirty-nine years after the end of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, those who returned were celebrated by a local veterans organization on Saturday as a way of saying thank you for their service.

The Boiling Springs Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8851 surprised the Edward Jay Rykoskey Post 1 Carlisle Vietnam Veteran’s Association during their annual Christmas party at the VFW on Saturday, supplying the veterans with a meal as well as holding an official welcome home celebration, as veterans of that conflict never received an official welcome when they returned stateside.

The event, which was open to the public and all Vietnam veterans in the area, was in appreciation of the veterans’ service and meant to properly thank the men and women who served during that conflict, said VFW Quarter Master Joe Newsome.

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“It is kind of common knowledge throughout the United States that Vietnam vets were not welcomed home like past and future soldiers,” he said. “Since the Afghan/Iraq wars, the American public has realized our serving men and women ought to be appreciated.”

Newsome, a three-tour Vietnam veteran himself, said in recent military actions the public has “gone out of their way” to welcome back veterans, and this is the VFW’s way of properly thanking those of the Vietnam era.

VFW Jr. Vice Commander Bill Hartman explained that the Vietnam Veterans Association hold its annual Christmas party at the Post, and traditionally the Post buys a round of drinks for those in attendance. However, this year they decided to open it up to all Vietnam veterans in the area, and purchase the meal as a thank you for their service.

“We are trying to say the things that weren’t property said 35 to 40 years ago,” he said.

Vice Commander of the Vietnam Veterans Association, Bill Smith, who was a sergeant in the Marine Corps during the conflict, said it was surprise and much appreciated that the VFW Post decided to thank the veterans in this way.

“We are extremely surprised and appreciative of all the VFW does for us, including this welcome home celebration,” he said. “Us Vietnam era guys, we kind of got a raw deal. We are very happy that the VFW has chosen to extend this ‘welcome home.’”

Smith said it is important to recognize our veterans for their sacrifices, which is something his organization does in order to prevent what the Vietnam era soldiers felt upon their arrival home.

“We want make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Hartman also echoed Smith’s sentiment saying it is extremely important to recognize our veterans and all they have done in their service of our country.

“I was just a little boy of 7-years-old when these men started coming home — reading history they were not properly welcomed home or thanked for their service to our country, therefore we the officers and members of Post 8851 will attempt to speak for the Boiling Springs community by saying, ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Thank You’ for your service to our country,” he said in an email explaining the event.

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