Mar. 27—HIGH POINT — Vietnam veterans who did not get a warm welcome when they returned home after the war said they appreciated the recognition given Saturday morning outside the High Point Public Library.
The National Vietnam Veterans Day celebration was hosted by the Alexander Martin Chapter of the N.C. Society Daughters of the American Revolution at the library's outdoor Arts and Education Plaza.
George Hobbs, who served in the U.S Army 18th Airborne from 1967-68 near the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, kept his comments short during the "Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans" celebration.
"I'm proud to say that we went over as a unit, we didn't lose a man and we all came back together," Hobbs said.
Bobby Myrick, who served in the U.S. Army at Bien Hoa, said he was glad to have been able to return home when he did.
"We didn't get a very warm welcome," Myrick said.
Laura Allred said she was proud of the service of her stepfather, Command Sgt. Major Robert DeCesari, who served two tours of duty in the Army Rangers' long-range patrol in Vietnam and Cambodia. She fought tears as she said he died in January of COVID-19, which also took her mother's life within the next month.
"He had a soldier's heart, a gruff exterior, but he had a heart of gold," Allred said.
Because of COVID-19 guidelines, all attendees wore masks and practiced social distancing at the event. Vietnam veterans and their families were given patriotic goodie bags that contained a commemorative Vietnam War pin. The pin could not be presented as was done in previous years.
A round table near the speaker's podium was draped with a white cloth and held a single red rose and red ribbon to symbolize missing veterans who never returned home, said Jacob Reichart, former president of the local Children of the American Revolution chapter. A slice of lemon on the bread plate symbolized the bitter fate of those captured in a foreign land while a pinch of salt symbolized the tears of those missing and their family members who seek answers. An inverted glass and empty chair symbolized the inability of those veterans to return home and share in a toast. Some were very young when they went to combat, Reichart said.
Each time she hears those symbols described in missing in action ceremonies it causes her to catch her breath, said Suzie Phipps, DAR service for veterans chair.
"Being a child of the generation where many of my high school classmates went to Vietnam and a lot of them died in Vietnam, this particular ceremony is very moving," Phipps said.
Phipps thanked the veterans who were able to attend as well as more who had told her they wanted to be there but couldn't make it.
Her husband James Phibbs said he remembers the celebrations after local veterans returned from World War II. "But nothing like that happened for Vietnam," he said. "It was a big difference."
Wayne Mabe, a veteran who served during the years between the Korean and Vietnam wars, said he was thankful for the veterans who served during Vietnam and remembers how they were treated after they returned.
"Those guys going in at the time were 18, 19, and they didn't have a clue what they were going into," Mabe said. "It breaks your heart. They were put out there to do the best they could and they did a good job."
After the ceremony, veterans talked among themselves and shared experiences. One veteran used his cellphone to share photos of himself as a 19-year-old serving in Vietnam and after he returned home.
firstname.lastname@example.org — 336-888-3534 — @HPEcinde