FORT KNOX, Ky. (August 30, 2010) - Brig. Gen. Robin B. Akin, the commanding general of Fort Knox's 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), spoke at the "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans" ceremony at Optimist Park in Vine Grove, Ky., on Aug. 26.

The ceremony was one of several in the Fort Knox area that paid tribute to Veterans of the Vietnam War and demonstrated respect and gratitude for their service to the United States.

Akin, one of only 22 female general officers in the U.S. Army, said a proper welcome home was long overdue for Vietnam Veterans.

"Tonight, we are gathered to extend a hand and appreciate those that once returned from service in Vietnam with more indifference and apathy, shrugs instead of hugs," Akin said to the crowd which included hundreds of Vietnam Veterans. "This is a day that is long overdue."

Akin's participation in the event capped off a day that started the four-day "Thank you from the Heartland: A salute to Vietnam Veterans" events in the surrounding area.

Sponsored by the city of Vine Grove, Vine Grove Chamber of Commerce and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10281, the event sought to give Vietnam Veterans a proper homecoming.

Years ago, when many Vietnam Veterans returned, they were met with social and political turmoil surrounding their participation in the war.

Through the "Thank you from the Heartland: A salute to Vietnam Veterans" events, Hardin county sought to give Vietnam Veterans the welcome they deserved.

Steve Leeds, a Radcliff, Ky. native and Vietnam Veteran, said that at first he didn't have any intentions of attending the ceremony because he felt that Vietnam Veterans should have been properly welcomed home years ago. But after attending, he felt as if he did the right thing.

"I did attend today's events and I feel as if we (Vietnam Veterans) were given a first class welcoming," Leeds said.

Leeds explained that he never received any harsh reaction upon his return from Vietnam, but knows of many who did. He said that for those who did, the day's events helped to erase years of bad memories.

"While I know we were thanked and welcomed today for our sacrifices, I also took this opportunity as a chance to welcome and thank our current Troops for all that they have done," said Leeds. "Being able to shake the hands of our combat veterans today just completely made my day."