Vietnam veterans will receive a proper “welcome home” this Thursday, in a special ceremony at Fort Campbell Army base. Organizers say the event aims to celebrate and thank service members, many of whom were scorned when they first came home from the war decades ago.
Memphis resident and Vietnam veteran Harold Beaver is traveling to Fort Campbell to participate, and said this kind of commemoration is long overdue.
“When we got back to the states, people at that time, they were still, you know, spitting on us,” Beaver said. “They were doing things that just showed dishonor, because we were participating in an occupation or war that people here in the States didn’t approve of.”
The event is free, but organizers suggest arriving up to two hours before the 2 p.m. ceremony to allow time for processing through security and getting to the event location on base. More information is available at states.AARP.org/tennessee.
Stacy Pennington, outreach director at AARP Tennessee, said this veterans’ welcome home event is a first for Fort Campbell.
“So, at the hanger, Hanger 3, it will be really neat. At 2:00, they’ll have the Vietnam veterans behind a closed gate. They’ll open that gate and everybody will be inside the hanger. And we will give them a proper ‘welcome home’ – like we do currently when our current men and women come home from service now,” Pennington said.
Nearly 500,000 veterans live in Tennessee. Around 37% of them served in Vietnam, according to data from the Housing Assistance Council.
Beaver said seeing people make time to celebrate and welcome him and fellow veterans has affected him profoundly.
“It’s just heart-wrenching to see the support, and people waving, giving high-fives and saying, ‘Thank you for your service’ – something that didn’t happen 50 years ago,” Beaver said.
AARP also will host an evening Memorial Mile walk and candlelit ceremony to honor fallen heroes in Clarksville, on Saturday, September 21, as part of the Valor Run marathon.