Vietnam Veterans’ Day in Massachusetts Passes Nearly Unnoticed
BOSTON (AP) _ A state holiday honoring Vietnam veterans only reminded some men of what they missed and paled next to the affection showered on soldiers returning from the Persian Gulf War.
Gov. William Weld set Friday aside as Vietnam Veterans’ Day in Massachusetts.
A brief Statehouse ceremony was followed by a modest banquet at the New England Homeless Veterans Shelter in Boston. Cots were moved aside and tables were bedecked with American flags. Special guests included soldiers who fought in Panama and the Persian Gulf.
″Vietnam Veterans’ Day is an opportunity for America to begin to right some of the wrongs of the Vietnam War by recognizing that there’s a day set aside for us,″ said Ken Smith, the shelter’s co-founder.
″We’re not asking for much,″ he said.
About 250 people attended, most of them veterans, he said.
The holiday fell on the anniversary of the American military withdrawal from South Vietnam. The last U.S. troops left March 29, 1973. Troop strength peaked at 543,400 in 1969.
Veterans said that despite the day in their honor, they felt largely ignored compared with soldiers who served in Operation Desert Storm.
″They don’t care,″ Glenn Liljander, a Vietnam veteran from Boston, said with a shrug. ″They just don’t care about us.″
But Smith said post-Gulf War celebrations helped make up for indifference and scorn heaped on veterans who fought in Vietnam.
″We’re so proud of these vets, but we know the reception they’re receiving from this nation is a direct result of our suffering,″ Smith said.
Others at the banquet spoke of that suffering.
″When I came home, I wasn’t called no hero,″ said John Lima, a Vietnam veteran now working as a security guard. ″I was called a baby killer.″
Ralph Cooper, director of the Vietnam Veterans’ Clearinghouse in Boston, said, ″I hear people trying to start dissension again among the veterans, that now that the troops are coming home from the Persian Gulf, that they’re trying to sweep the Vietnam veterans under the rug.
″Well, we’re veterans all, regardless of the war we were in,″ he said.
Jack Harrington, another Vietnam veteran, said everyone should be happy with the new attitude toward the military.
″I’m tickled pink they got this kind of reception - because I didn’t,″ he said. ″We’ve learned our lessons.″