Fort Bragg remembers Vietnam Vets at Veteran's Day ceremony
November 23, 2011
"Thank you for your attendance as we acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the Veterans and their Families and as we honor and welcome home our Vietnam veterans," said Maj. Gen. Rodney O. Anderson, deputy commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps during Fort Bragg's Vietnam Veterans Memorial Rededication Ceremony at the Main Post Parade Field Nov. 10.
The ceremony held under the main post flag began with the presentation of the colors honoring the nation.
"Over 150,000 servicemembers are currently deployed protecting our way of life," Anderson said. "They are our nation's veterans who have paid and who continue to pay for our nation's freedoms."
During his remarks, Anderson performed a roll call for all Family members and servicemembers who have been involved in both current and past conflicts.
"We are abundantly blessed as Americans to enjoy many freedoms and opportunities that other people only dream about," he said.
"Servicemembers agree to give up their lives so those they didn't even know can enjoy their freedom."
Shortly after his remarks, Anderson, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Howard, the command sergeant major of XVIII Abn. Corps, laid a wreath honoring all veterans especially the small group of Vietnam veterans who attended the ceremony.
"Today is the best day I have had since I came back from Vietnam," said Ret. Master Sgt. Willie Harris. "Somebody actually said thank you."
Following the laying of the wreath, Anderson and Howard with distinguished guests unveiled the Vietnam Memorial Stone in its new location now under the constant light of the eternal flame.
"Join as we rededicate a monument acknowledging the Vietnam-era service of those who gave their time, talents and some, their lives, in defense of our freedom and our way of life," Anderson said.
For Harris and the other Vietnam veterans in attendance, the day created new memories to help replace the bad ones of their original homecomings.
"We weren't looking for a ceremony when we came home, but we definitely weren't looking to be spit on and beat up either," Harris said. "We just wanted to be welcomed home."
The peaceful sounds of "Amazing Grace," echoing from bagpipes, the significance of the playing of "Taps" by a single bugler and the rifle fire from the 21-gun salute all contributed to Harris and the other Vietnam veterans feeling the true welcoming home they deserved, he explained.
"I got tears in my eyes several times during the ceremony," Harris said. "I really feel honored to be a part of this Veteran's Day celebration."
After the completion of the ceremony, Anderson invited the Vietnam veterans to gather around the Vietnam Memorial Stone, where they were instantly swarmed by people, to include current Soldiers thanking them for their sacrifices.
"I thank Fayetteville and Fort Bragg for what they have done for us today," Harris said. "For me, this is where I started my military career, this is where I ended my military career and this military town is where I am going to stay."