Vietnam War veterans welcomed home
The line extends around the room as Charles Oare is one of the first veterans to receive a pin and a certificate for his service at a Vietnam Welcome Home ceremony Saturday at the Steven H. Nipp American Legion Post 143, Post Falls.
Carl Gidlund stands to receive applause for his service in the Vietnam War as his wife, Sally Gidlund, proudly looks on at a Vietnam Welcome Home ceremony Saturday in Post Falls.
Daughter of the American Revolution member Shirley Stirling fills in a certificate with member LaVonne Whitaker, who thanks veteran James Beltramo for his service. The line of veterans extended around the room to receive a pin and to be welcomed home by the Daughters of the American Revolution and American Legion Post members.
Hagadone News Network | September 22, 2023 1:00 AM
Keynote speaker Gregory Lucas gave a brief history and shared facts about the Vietnam War at a Welcome Home ceremony Saturday at the American Legion Steven H. Nipp Post 143 in Post Falls.
Lucas, a Vietnam veteran himself, is a lawyer who lives in Washington and has a home in Post Falls.
Speaking to a standing-room-only audience, he cited key battles, strategic turning points, the Tet Offensive, Agent Orange, the Kennedy assassination, protests and the 58,267 American military who died, 61% under 21 and 7,484 of them women.
“That’s the version of the Vietnam War that historians will tell you for 100 years,” Lucas said. “They’ll continue to argue about the politics, the merits, the implications and the consequences of the war. But the real story is not theirs to tell.”
He teared up for a moment as he continued.
“It’s the story of men and women who served and fought and died there," Lucas said.
Daughters of the American Revolution and American Legion Posts from Washington and Idaho collaborated to host the Welcome Home event.
“It was supposed to be a small deal,” Commemorative Events Chair Franida Maudsley said. “It’s turning into a bigger deal.”
Maudsley is a Daughters of the American Revolution Sacajawea Chapter second vice-regent. She’s from Post Falls and now lives in Washington.
The event was a collaboration crossing state and chapter lines.
Maudsley worked within her DAR chapter to bring together the Jonas Babcock, May Hutton and Pleasantview chapters, along with the Post Falls and Rathdrum American Legion Posts to honor and thank Vietnam veterans for their service.
Maudsley hoped for a good turnout, but she wasn’t sure what to expect.
More than 110 people attended, and 48 veterans received pins for their service.
“I will say briefly so I don’t get emotional, Vietnam is my generation,” Post Falls City Council President Kerri Thoreson said. “You are my peers. I have family, friends, classmates who served so it’s always really personal to me when we honor Vietnam veterans. Russell Watkins from Post Falls was the first Vietnam casualty from Kootenai County, so it’s personal to Post Falls, too.”
Each veteran received a pin and a handshake from the keynote speaker who said, "Thank you for your service" and "Welcome home."
“It was an honor, and I appreciate that,” Vietnam veteran Richard Farrens said. “This has been wonderful. They did a great job here.”
Farrens received a pin, and his sister, Fran Reese, received a pin on behalf of her brother-in-law, who died Monday.
Reese lives in Post Falls, and her brother-in-law, Bob Reese, lived in Washington, so the collaboration over state lines meant a lot to her when she was able to receive her brother-in-law's pin as Farrens received his.
The event helped heal some lingering pain for many of the veterans and their families.
“When these gentlemen came home from service, they couldn’t wear their uniforms in public,” Reese said. “They had to change their uniforms in the airport. They couldn’t even say they were in Vietnam because people would shun them, people would call them names.”
Bob was injured twice and received a Purple Heart during his time in the service.
“But that doesn’t pay for the suffering these guys suffered,” Fran said. “They shouldn’t be ashamed to wear their country’s uniform.”
Farrens said the way he was treated when he returned from Vietnam contributed to his post-traumatic stress disorder.
"What is said now is nice, but it’s not the same as if it were back then," he said.
Farrens said he has found community and meaning in the American Legion Posts, but still struggles to feel connected beyond that.
“One thing that really helped me now is to have a holiday now that is recognized,” Farrens said.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day is now March 29, a day meant to pay tribute to veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were prisoners of war or who were listed as missing in action.
“That made me feel good because that’s something they just don’t discard," Farrens said.