A ceremony held Tuesday at the Veterans Memorial Park in Rolla honoring Vietnam veterans began with two words: “Welcome home!”

A ceremony held Tuesday at the Veterans Memorial Park in Rolla honoring Vietnam veterans began with two words: “Welcome home!”
Those were words not always heard by U.S. service members who returned back home after serving overseas during the Vietnam War.
The U.S. government viewed its involvement in the war as a way to stop the spread of communism, especially into South Vietnam, but not everyone in the U.S. supported the war. More than 58,000 U.S. service members died during the war.
The local ceremony was held Tuesday, March 29, and on that day in 1973, the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the last prisoners of war held in North Vietnam arrived on American soil.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, about 42 states plus Puerto Rico recognize Vietnam Veterans Day, either through legislation or resolutions, and most celebrate Vietnam Veterans Day on either March 29 or 30.
Gov. Jay Nixon has designated March 30 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Missouri. But Rolla Mayor Lou Magdits IV signed a proclamation on March 10 designating March 29 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in Rolla
Jerry Bumpus, chairman of the South Central Regional Veterans Group, led the local program along with Regent Patricia Hale of the Noah Coleman Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. About 30 people, mostly Vietnam veterans representing the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, attended.
Bumpus said the day is meant “to recognize the men and women who were denied a proper welcome when returning more than 40 years ago.”
Hale talked about the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Commemorative Partner Program, which “allows organizations like us the opportunity to give thanks and recognize and honor Vietnam veterans and their families for their service, valor and sacrifices during the Vietnam War from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975.”
Hale gave each Vietnam veteran in attendance a lapel pin “as a lasting memento of our nation’s thanks.” The lapel pin includes an eagle symbolizing courage, honor and dedicated service to this nation; the color blue, which signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice; stripes symbolizing the American flag; a laurel wreath representing victory, integrity and strength; and six stars representing the six allies in the war: Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and the United States. On the back of the lapel pin, it reads, “A grateful nation thanks and honors you.”
Also during the ceremony, the Vietnam War memorial, one of 17 monuments placed along a quarter-mile trail at the veterans park, was dedicated. The Vietnam War monument was donated by four local Vietnam veterans.
The 17 monuments are dedicated to all major U.S. military engagements from the Revolutionary War to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Revolutionary War monument, installed on March 25, was the last to be placed.
Phelps County Monument Company installed the monuments, which are 4 feet tall by 18 inches wide by 9 inches thick. Each monument weighs about 1,100 pounds, Bumpus said, and are made from Missouri granite.