By Ms. Dawn M Arden (Leonard Wood)May 3, 2019
Soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood's Noncommissioned Officer Academy assisted legislators in pinning more than 600 veterans in a ceremony commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War held at the Missouri State Capitol April 25.
Organizers from the Missouri Veterans Commission said about 1,200 individuals attended the ceremony giving Vietnam veterans an official "welcome home."
"This day of recognition is for you," State Representative Allen Andrew said to veterans in attendance. "You are a special class of veterans and you hold special meaning to this state. Unfortunately for many of you here today, this will be the first time that you have been honored. This potentially may be the first time that you have been offered a sincere thank you for your service to our state and to our nation."
For at least one veteran, the day marked more than his first time being recognized.
Arthur Bowser, a St. Louis native was a flight line mechanic with the Air Force from 1968 to 1972 when he got out as a staff sergeant. This was Bowser's first time reconnecting with his fellow service members since he returned 47 years ago.
"I've just been like a lost Soldier since I've been home. I had no connection with anybody from the military since I got out," Bowser said. "I feel like I've been accepted -- like I've come home. I appreciate the time I spent in the military, I had a good time and it was for a good cause. I'm just thankful that I came home safe and sound."
Sgt. Anne Herbst, MSCoE NCOA Military Police Advance Leader Course student, said she has an uncle who is a Vietnam veteran, so the event hits close to home for her. She said she was honored to participate in the event.
"They deserve much respect and honor from us. This made me feel very proud and very humble, to meet these heroes that have set a path for the rest of us, and it was also fun to see the older generation meeting the newer generation of veterans," Herbst said. "We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our Vietnam veterans. Like they said during the program, they didn't get the proper welcoming and I think they deserve that."
Her classmate, Sgt. Leon Perkins, said he wanted to participate in order to show his gratitude for their service. He said it was nice to see smiles on the veteran's faces.
"Without them we wouldn't be here. We are grateful for what they have done," Perkins said. "It's very important that we show our gratitude to those that did not return, as well."
Perkins said through the uniform the generations share an understanding.
"Thank you for what you did," Perkins said. "We will continue the legacy and protect the country."