State, county ceremonies to ‘welcome home’ Vietnam-era vets

Parts of Saigon were left in rubble during the Tet offensive in February 1968, a turning point in the Vietnam War. An Quang Pagoda, a Viet Cong launching point for the Saigon attack, is at the top of the photo. [AP photo]
Parts of Saigon were left in rubble during the Tet offensive in February 1968, a turning point in the Vietnam War. An Quang Pagoda, a Viet Cong launching point for the Saigon attack, is at the top of the photo. [AP photo]
Published March 26 2018
Updated March 26 2018

Five decades after the nation became embroiled in Vietnam, the wounds have yet to fully heal. But officials in Florida are taking steps to finally welcome home the half a million residents who served during that era.

"It is important that a day of recognition be given, as we were not welcomed home after our tour of duty," said Vietnam War veteran Brad Jenkins, 71, of St. Petersburg.

"There remains emotional pain in many Vietnam veterans because they were not honored as heroes. I share the memories of not being welcomed home by my country after serving as a combat veteran in this war. I was one of the fortunate ones who was able to get on with my life."

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, will host a commemoration event at 10 a.m. today at the new Hillsborough County Veterans Resource Center, 3602 U.S. 301, Tampa.

Veterans from the Vietnam era will receive recognition that may not have been extended to them when they came home some 50 years ago, according to a statement from Castor’s office.

Vietnam War veterans who served from 1955 through 1975 may sign up in advance of the commemoration at castor.house.gov or by calling (813) 871-2817.

In addition, the state of Florida plans to honor Vietnam veterans.

Gov. Rick Scott has signed a proclamation designating Thursday as Vietnam Veterans Day in Florida. The Sunshine State is home to nearly 500,000 Vietnam-era veterans, the state’s largest veteran demographic group.

Vietnam Veterans Day is observed annually as part of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, signed into law by President Donald Trump. The act encourages Americans to display the U.S. flag each March 29 in honor of Vietnam veterans.

In addition, many VA medical centers, outpatient clinics and national cemeteries are joining local communities by hosting events this year to honor Vietnam veterans.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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