Vietnam Vets welcomed home by county
Rock Creek Park in Lewisburg was full of families on Saturday.
It wasnít just people taking advantage of a beautiful summer day, as the stage filled with dignitaries and the enormous flag suspended from the cityís ladder truck suggested a much more significant event.
It was much more personal.
Hundreds of Vietnam veterans and their families gathered for the Welcome Home Marshall County celebration.
The event was organized by the Marshall County Veteranís Outreach group, spearheaded by Larry McKnight and Wayne Coomes, as part of the 13-year 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War.
The annual 50th anniversay commeration began in 2012 and will be held for 13 years to match the duration of the war.
Tennessee Commissioner of Veterans Services Many-Bears Grinder delivered the keynote address to the gathered crowd.
She spoke of the service and the sacrifice of the veterans, and how, lost in the upheaval of the time, that service and sacrifice had gone unrecognized.
Grinderís speech was emotional, ranging from her own service to her childhood memories of veterans returning home from Vietnam.
The audience offered her a standing ovation when she concluded, leading her to lose composure, saying that the applause for her was misplaced, that they, the veterans themselves, deserved the acclamation.
McKnight told the Tribune that several attendees had asked if it would be possible to reprint her remarks in the newspaper. The Tribune is attempting to obtain a transcript of the speech for publication.
Grinder also presented an award of her own. She called Barbara Blackmore to the stage and presented her with the Patriots Award from the Department of Veterans Services for her work with Moms on a Mission.
For more than 10 years, Moms on a Mission has made sure that military personnel from Marshall County receive care packages regularly from home.
At the end of the ceremony, the assembled veterans lined up, not unlike graduation. They crossed the stage one by one, shaking hands and receiving the lapel pins and proclamations honoring their service, as well as the appreciation that was long overdue.
Unlike graduation, this ceremony didnít mark a new chapter in their lives or a sending off into the world, but a long deferred welcome home.