Our View: Celebrating our heroes | CraigDailyPress.com

Our View: Celebrating our heroes

Saturday’s Hometown Heroes picnic will be a small-town affair compared to what’s coming to Branson, Mo., in June.

But the spirit will be much the same.

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend a $15 million homecoming celebration for Vietnam veterans in the small Ozark Mountain town better known for its vacation amenities.

Organizers say Vietnam veterans are long overdue for a celebration recognizing their heroic sacrifice in service to our country.

Operation Homecoming U.S.A. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to giving Vietnam veterans the joyful homecoming they never received.

In Craig, our Hometown Heroes celebration will honor all servicemen and servicewomen, but it will include a special recognition of Vietnam veterans.

One local Vietnam veteran, who fought in the conflict from 1968 to 1970, confided that he has avoided ceremonies honoring veterans because he still carries a chip on his shoulder from the way he was treated on his return home.

A woman spat at him at an airport in Los Angeles, and he hasn’t forgotten. Contrast that with the warm welcome that servicemen and -women have received on their return from Iraq, and it’s understandable why some Vietnam veterans feel a sense of bitterness.

“They feel like the bastards of America, if you want it straight,” said Johnny Garcia, a member of the VFW and Moffat County’s veterans service officer. “We thought it was a good idea to give these veterans the recognition they didn’t get when they returned from Vietnam. We wanted to honor them for the fighting they did during a controversial time in American history when there were protests.”

Last year, during Mem-orial Day, the veterans groups honored Moffat County’s living World War II veterans with certificates of appreciation. The VFW has collected the names of 27 Vietnam veterans in Moffat County who will be presented with certificates during Saturday’s Hometown Heroes picnic.

Garcia hopes all veterans — “World War II, Korean, Vietnam and hopefully some of the young vets that have made it back from Afghanistan or Iraq” — will come to the picnic for their due recognition.

“We want to honor all veterans. That’s what it’s all about,” Garcia said. “They made some big sacrifices when they signed on to protect the U.S. from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

We hope Saturday’s picnic will show our Vietnam veterans that we count all our veterans as heroes.

For the young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are indeed happy when they come back home. They are the ones currently in harm’s way. But that shouldn’t diminish the honor and duty shown by the servicemen who came before them.

It was 30 years ago last month that the last Americans were airlifted out of Saigon, ending U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. On Saturday, Moffat County residents will have the opportunity to show these veterans that their personal sacrifices were — and still are — appreciated.

The Hometown Heroes picnic at City Park gets started at 11 a.m. There will be free hamburgers, hot dogs, side dishes, soft drinks and speeches, and KRAI will spin some patriotic songs. Attendees are encouraged to bring a dessert to share with the community.

We also will get a chance to hear from the surviving family members of Marine Pfc. Chance Phelps, who paid the ultimate price in service to our country.

We hope to have a large turnout for the picnic and show our local veterans how proud of them we are.

For more information, call Samantha Johnston at 824-7031.

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