Sunday, September 13, 2009

Welcome Home

The WWII generation didn't suggest it; baby boomer opinion leaders wouldn't touch it; the VFW didn't push it; the American Legion was silent. A maturing new generation of young people who know right from wrong made it happen.

A new commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division and fresh community leaders around Fort Campbell took corrective actions and organized a welcome home for Vietnam veterans on August 16, 2009.
Forty years after the fact (plus or minus) Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell's speech to veterans and families expressed appreciation and heartfelt thanks for the job we did.

We arrived at Fort Campbell on Sunday afternoon and parked our cars beside Division Parade Field. Our family members loaded onto coach buses and departed for the hangar before the 600 veterans loaded similar buses and motored to the same destination. Veterans unloaded and assembled into a giant formation in front of the closed hangar. When the command was given, the enormous doors spread open like a theater curtain to reveal a brightly lit interior with bleachers filled with cheering people. Celebration horns sounded, band music played, the crowd waved and shouted as we marched inside to a standing ovation. Ceremonial protocol followed.

Veterans from all branches were invited and 1,500 came. There were three repeat celebrations throughout the afternoon and into the evening to accommodate the large turnout. Clarksville's Golden Rule Smokehouse BBQ and Ajax Distributing donated 900 meals to feed the first wave. Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce handled the veteran registration leading up to the weekend. It was a joint effort by the community, the Chamber of Commerce, General Campbell, and the military. Male and female active duty soldiers helped execute the ceremonial plan and coordinate the event. An excellent job was done by all.

While on Ft. Campbell, I returned to the barracks at the corner of Kentucky Ave. and 46th Street where I spent most of 1967. This place was my duty assignment after I returned from Vietnam. Our platoon fell out each morning for reveille on the ground where I'm standing in the bottom photo.

It was exciting to return to Fort Campbell for the ceremony after 42 years. I knew nobody, but felt kinship to everybody.

Click on pictures to enlarge them.

Have a good week!


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