Vietnam, other vets receive hero's welcome at local airport
SundayOct 7, 2018 at 7:43 PM Oct 7, 2018 at 7:43 PM
FLETCHER â" For many of the 103 military veterans who received a heroâs welcome at Asheville Regional Airport Saturday night, the show of gratitude was 50 years overdue.
Nonetheless, Vietnam War veteran Harold Stines was glad to finally be recognized.
âWe got terrorized (after we arrived home) in California,â said Stines, a Haywood County native who lives in Canton. âThey threw eggs at us. Weâd take off our uniforms to stay safe.â
Fellow Vietnam vet Larry Anders described an equally appalling âwelcome homeâ from one of the nationâs most controversial and divisive wars that left the U.S. with little to show after 58,148 American soldiers lost their lives and 75,000 others returned with severe wounds and permanent disabilities.
âPeople were tr ying to spit on you,â said Anders, a Madison County resident whose six-year stint in the Marine Corps ended in 1971. âThey were cussing at you and calling you baby killer.â
Such wasnât the case Saturday night, as hundreds of people stood three-deep in two meandering lines, cheering and shouting, âThank you for your service!â to veterans of World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
The welcoming came at the end of a daylong trip where the veterans and a 78-member entourage of paramedics and other caretakers spent several hours reflecting and genuflecting at war monuments and memorials in Washington, D.C.
Honor Flight, a not-for-profit program that has given thousands of servicemen and servicewomen a chance to gain closure or pay their respects to fallen comrades in the nationâs capital, paid all the expenses.
Hendersonville resident Jeff Miller, who founded Honor Air, a similar program that later became Blue Ridge Honor Flight when it joined Honor Flightâs nationwide network, was on the 181-seat aircraft when it arrived hom Saturday â" but stayed out of sight as the veterans arrived deplaned to music performed by the Montreat Scottish Pipes & Drums corps.
Miller said before the trip that he was encouraged by the number of people who planned to take part â" from civic group members to scout troops and extended families.
âIt shows me that thereâs a lot of people who really give a damn,â he said.
âFor some of the Vietnam vets, the welcome home they got was anything but welcome,â Miller added. âEverybody hated that war, but maybe we can shake off some of those bad memories and give them some happy ones.â
Apparently, that was the case with Anders, the former Marine who celebrated his 50th anniversary with his wife, Linda, last week.
âToday has been a whole lot different than my other trips,â he said, his voice trembling slightly. âIt was more emotional very touc hing. Iâve got more closure.â
Stines, a member of the U.S. Armyâs 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment who was wounded severely in a land mine explosion, said officials at the Vietnam Wall and other memorial sites treated him and his fellow veterans with dignity and respect.
âThere was a frog in my throat, all the way up to just under my tongueâ when I saw the Vietnam Wall, he said. âI couldnât go up to the wall the first time I went up there â" too many friends died.
âBut that all happened 50 years ago,â Stines said. âThey were passing around 40 or 50 cards (from scouting groups and other organizations) on the plane, and I had to quit reading. It really thrilled my heart.â
Army veteran Billy Joe âBusterâ Scott of Rutherfordton said he couldnât describe his feelings after a long, emotional day.
âWe didnât get no recognition back then,â said Scott, who served in Vietnam from 1967-1968. âThey (military officers) said good -bye to us when we got back home, and that was that.
âI wasnât expecting this, though,â Scott said as he showed off a cell phone photo taken earlier in the day with former U.S. Senator Bob Dole, now 95. âIt took 50 years, but we finally got recognition.â
Stephen Kindland is a freelance writer and photographer living in Fletcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Source: Google News Vietnam | Netizen 24 Vietnam