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Vietnam veterans receive welcome home decades after war

U.S. forces in Vietnam in May, 1965.

MIKE MEALEY/STARS AND STRIPES

By TREVOR REID | Greeley Tribune, Colo. (Tribune News Service) | Published: May 14, 2017

LONGMONT — When Vietnam veteran John Jodell walked up to the doors of the Southwest Weld Complex Saturday morning, the first thing anyone said to him was, "Welcome home."

"Thank you. I needed to hear that," Jodell responded.

Jodell attended a Welcome Home Pinning Ceremony with about 50 other Vietnam veterans. The Board of Weld County Commissioners organized the event, which was provided by a program of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. When former President George W. Bush signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, it empowered the Secretary of Defense to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

The commemoration sought to give veterans of one of the most controversial wars in American history the welcome home that they never received. When Jodell first got back from Vietnam, he didn't get a ceremony. Instead, returning veterans were quickly encouraged to hide their service.

"They took us around to the other side of the LA airport where the kitchen was and let us off in the kitchen. And then issued us all a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, and said we couldn't wear our uniforms," Jodell said.

The ceremony included a speech by Weld County Commissioner Chair Julie Cozad, a proclamation commemorating the 50th anniversary of the war read by U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., and a keynote speech by retired Col. Stan Cass. The commissioners and speakers then called up each veteran to receive their commemorative pins and gratitude from the speakers.

Greeley resident Richard Norris, 81, served 363 days in Vietnam. In his 37 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Vietnam was the only location in which he served a combat role. When he returned to the U.S., he told a story similar to Jodell's.

"There were no welcomings or anything, other than my family," Norris said.

He returned overseas to serve in Spain before too long. Norris said he thinks he missed the anti-war movement at its peak during this time, but on returning, he still didn't feel welcomed back.

"This really lifted my spirits," he said of the ceremony. "It was really nice to be officially welcomed back to the United States."

©2017 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)
Visit the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) at www.greeleytribune.com
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