Dozens of veterans of the Vietnam War and dozens more Family members were on hand on May 20 at Fort McCoy to participate in the Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home ceremony as part of festivities for the installation's 2017 Armed Forces Day Open House.

Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David J. Pinter Sr. hosted the ceremony in the post's Rumpel Fitness Center. In welcoming the veterans, Pinter said, "All of you have served as my inspiration to serve."

Pinter was joined in the ceremony by retired Maj. Gen. Paul Lima and Medal of Honor recipient, retired Command Sgt. Ken Stumpf - both from Wisconsin and Vietnam veterans. Lima served as the featured guest speaker.

"When many of us came back (from Vietnam), we came back to a time of turmoil," Lima said. "No one could recognize the invisible wounds coupled with haunting memories from that time. ... (We) didn't receive a public welcome or recognition of service.

"Many (veterans) quietly assimilated back into their communities and used their skills to better America," Lima said.

Each veteran received a Vietnam Veterans Lapel Pin from Lima and Stumpf. The ceremony was one of many taking place around the United States that officially recognize veterans who served between May 1, 1955, and Nov. 15, 1975.

Dennis Thompson from Lavelle, Wis., attended the open house with his wife and attended the ceremony.

"This experience was excellent," said Thompson, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy from 1966-67. "It was great to see everything that's here and to attend the ceremony. Also, it was great to see the place where my (father) served in World War II."

Thompson shared a photo that included his father, former Army Tech. Sgt. Eugene Thompson, pictured atop a tank at then-Camp McCoy in the early 1940s. "Dad always had fond memories of this place and his experience here," Thompson said.

Veteran Douglas Gisler of Milton, Wis., who served in the Army during the Vietnam War, attended the open house with his wife Susan. Both took part in seeing everything available and were also ceremony participants.

"This was a wonderful ceremony," Gisler said.

The Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home event was something "long overdue for a generation of veterans that's been long overlooked," added Fort McCoy Public Affairs Officer Tonya K. Townsell. "While we can't change the past, I hope our event brought a feeling of recognition and appreciation to our Vietnam veterans."

Millions of men and women served during the Vietnam War. Lima said it's important to never forget what those veterans have given for their country.

"We all remember the flag-draped coffins. ... We remember the more than 58,000 (people) whose names are inscribed on the walls of the (Vietnam) memorial in Washington," Lima said.

The event was coordinated by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office with a high level of support from garrison staff and others from the installation, Townsell said.