WASHINGTON, D.C. - Airmen assigned to the 316th Wing, Joint Base Andrews, Md., joined Americans from all over the country at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 11-13 to thank Vietnam veterans for their service and sacrifices from over 50 years ago.
The three-day "Welcome Home" event kicked off with an opening ceremony, including a fly-over of four Vietnam-era UH-1N Huey helicopters from the 316th Wing's 1st Helicopter Squadron.
“It was an honor and a privilege for me to be able to participate in the Vietnam War Commemoration,” said Maj Jordan Lawrence, UH-1N Instructor Pilot. “I will never fully understand what many of those men and women went through during that conflict, so if there is anything I can do to show my appreciation for their sacrifices, I am happy to do it and grateful to be a part of it.”
The weekend of events also included a special demonstration from the 316th Security Forces K-9 Unit, featuring military working dogs, Boss and Limra. Both dogs showcased multiple scenarios with their handlers on how they apprehend and take down potential adversaries showing strategic and calculated control.
“Many people don’t know that a lot of our origins as handlers came from that time period," said SSgt Michael Kovach, 316th Wing Security Forces K-9 supervisor. "We learned a lot from the Vietnam War."
This demonstration highlighted the significant role military working dogs played in the Vietnam War. American forces used dogs for many things, from base security to detecting ambushes to hunting down fleeing enemy units.
"Having two family members who served in the war made this event have a more personal meaning," Kovach continued. “Hearing the stories and knowing the history, we are happy to be out here honoring both Vietnam veterans and the working dogs who served during that time.”
The schedule of events featured drill teams, static displays and service bands playing live music. Vietnam veterans also gathered at “rally points” to honor and speak the names of the more than 1,500 Vietnam veterans who still remain unaccounted for today.
One event included a panel discussion with journalists from the Vietnam War era sharing their in-depth memories of events. Attendees were also welcomed to visit many of the information booths hosted by POW/MIA organizations, veterans associations and government agencies.
Diane Love Cocker, a retired Red Cross member from the war, said on the event, “Seeing the large turnout young and old out here, it means the world to me and my husband, who’s also a Vietnam veteran.”
Cocker was volunteering at the Red Cross tent for the event sharing stories and memories of deployments during that time.
“There were many men who came home but really didn’t 'come home', if you know what I mean," said Crocker. "It saddened me to see the public reaction to them coming back then. But this is why events like this are so important, and I'm glad they finally get a proper welcome home."
The national “Welcome Home” event was planned by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, a congressionally-authorized organization launched by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to honor and pay tribute to Vietnam-era veterans, prisoners of war, and those missing-in-action, as well as their families.
To see full coverage of the event, visit: https://www.vietnamwar50th.com.