FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker honored Vietnam War veterans during a pinning ceremony at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service main store March 29.
About 20 veterans of the war attended the ceremony, which featured a cake cutting, and lapel pins and gift bags for those who gave so much for their country in the Vietnam War, according to Jessie Lynch, store manager of the AAFES Fort Rucker Main Store.
“I hope they feel appreciated,” Lynch said of the attending veterans who continued to stop by for the event throughout the day. “I hope that they feel that this community is here to support them. That we are here to celebrate them and the sacrifices that they made. We’re just truly blessed to be here to serve them.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Terrence D. Reyes Jr., 1st Aviation Brigade command sergeant major, agreed as he opened the event by speaking in front of the attending veterans.
“This observance is personal for us here at Fort Rucker because we walk in the footsteps of the men and women who answered the call of service during the Vietnam War era,” Reyes said, adding that many Soldiers and civilian employees are the grandchildren, sons and daughters of Vietnam veterans.
“As we thank you for your service, we also want to continue welcoming the millions of eligible disabled veterans and their caregivers who are now authorized to shop on base at commissaries and exchanges,” he said. “As we observe National Vietnam War Veterans Day, we cannot say thank you enough for your service and for your sacrifice – thank you!”
After Reyes wrapped up, a member of the crowd yelled, “Welcome home, Vietnam veterans – welcome home!”
Bobby Emfinger, a Vietnam War veteran who served in country with the 1st Cavalry Division in 1969-70, appreciated the post’s gesture to those who gave so much for their nation.
“It means a lot ... it does,” he said. “We never received any ticker-tape parades – we never received those honors – but coming home was a big enough honor (at the time). Today, these types of events mean so much to Vietnam veterans. We lost so many who have passed away and gone on, but it’s great to be honored and feel that the country that we fought for loves us still.”
Allan Tusberg, a Vietnam veteran who served in 1966-67, echoed those sentiments.
“It’s nice – it’s great that people are doing these sorts of things for the veterans before too many people forget, because that’s what seems to happen today, we forget too quickly,” he said.
The event was personal for many non-veterans in the crowd, as well, including Lynch.
“The breadth of the Vietnam War is wide and long, and it does impact a lot of families,” she said. “I had a grandfather who was in the Air Force doing communications and an uncle in Navy who didn’t serve any time in the country, but served during that timeframe. I had two uncles that both served in country. One came home, and one was MIA for about 30 years. In 1990, they (identified his remains at the crash site) of his helicopter that had crashed in country. We were able to bury him in 1991 in Arlington National Cemetery. It’s important to my family, and important to our community, that we honor these veterans.”