At Knox, Vietnam vets get belated welcome home
August 30, 2010
By Maureen Rose
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Army News Service, Aug. 30, 2010) -- During a mid-week celebration Aug. 26, Fort Knox honored Vietnam veterans and give them the warm "welcome home" they deserved, but few received, after returning to the United States following the war some 35 years ago.
Approximately 1,000 veterans turned out and were greeted by 2,500 flag-waving, sign-holding, cheering Soldiers, family members, civilian employees, and contractors who lined the route that veterans' convoy of buses and motorcycles took to the Brooks Parade Field here, for the ceremony.
The veterans who were able marched onto the field through an honor cordon formed by Fort Knox Junior ROTC cadets and Soldiers of the 19th Engineer Battalion. The audience applauded for the entire 15 minutes it took for the veterans to move from the parking lots to their places of honor on the field.
To the delight of veterans, three vintage aircraft flew over the crowd. Those aircraft included an OH-6 Loach, an AH-1 Cobra and a UH-1H Iroquois -- also called a "Huey", known to some as the workhorse of Vietnam.
The choppers flew low and slow over the field, then landed a safe distance away. The aircraft and pilots remained after the ceremony, joining others in the static equipment displays, to allow the guests of honor the opportunity to talk with them.
"Thank you from the Heartland: A Salute to Vietnam Veterans" was the theme for the series of events scheduled throughout the communities surrounding Fort Knox.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, Fort Knox and Accessions Command commander spoke to those in attendance at the event. Freakley explained to the vets how much today's Army owes them.
"We are the best led, the best manned, the best equipped, the best trained, and best supported Army our nation has ever fielded and the best Army in the world because of you," he said. "Probably most importantly, you instilled in us the Army values that we try to live up to today."
The general continued, this time directing attention to the modern-day Soldiers sharing the field with veterans.
"Today you can look out at any formation, like that one to your left, the 19th Engineer Battalion," the general said. "(They are) combat hardened, all volunteer Soldiers, young men and women, just back from combat. You can look at them and say with pride, 'we built that force.' Today's military stands on the shoulders of giants -- your shoulders."
After the Knox ceremony, one veteran said he was moved by the sight of school children waving flags as part of the crowd lining the motorcade route.
Others enjoyed the 60's music played by the rock combo from Fort Knox's 113th Army Band. A few of the veterans coaxed their partners to dance on the grassy apron in front of the performers.
Young Soldiers from today also took the time to visit those who had served in Vietnam. One young NCO chatted with two Vietnam vets and said they had no trouble making a connection.
"We may have worn different uniforms, but we have a lot in common," he said. "Once a Soldier, always a Soldier."
(Maureen Rose writes for the Fort Knox Public Affairs Office)