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thedrifter
08-10-09, 07:29 AM
August 10, 2009
Fort Campbell plans to honor Vietnam vets

By Kristin M. Hall
Associated Press

Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers returning to Fort Campbell have been greeted by waving flags, an Army band and plenty of family and friends.

That was not the case in the 1960s and early '70s, when there was very little support for many Vietnam veterans returning from combat.

So leaders at Fort Campbell decided to give the previous generation a long-awaited welcome-home celebration this week.

The event will be held Sunday as a part of the installation's annual celebration for the 101st Airborne Division, called Week of the Eagles.

Fort Campbell spokeswoman Cathy Gramling said the response has been overwhelming. About 1,300 veterans and their families from across the country are expected to attend. Gramling said she's heard of veterans coming from as far away as Seattle.

“We've got Marines, Air Force, Navy and Army all represented,” she said.

Robert Nichols, a retired command sergeant major from the 101st Airborne, is helping organize the event along with the 101st Airborne Division Association, an organization for former members of the division.

A veteran of both Vietnam and the Persian Gulf wars, Nichols said there was a stark difference in how he was treated when he came home each time.

“I was just 18 and 19 in Vietnam and I did what my country asked me to do,” he said. “When we come home, everyone was mad at us and it was confusing and it was emotional. It was very hard.”

He's hoping that these veterans will get a chance to experience the support and gratitude that current soldiers enjoy.

“Old soldiers have wounds that have healed over time, and I think the timing is right,” he said. “It's just going to be a special time for all of us.”

Event planners are encouraging Vietnam vets to wear pieces of their uniforms. The former soldiers will line up in formation and march into a plane hangar where an Army band, commanders, local officials and families will be waiting.

Arrangements are being made for veterans with disabilities and those who use wheelchairs. Families of deceased veterans will march while carrying photos.

The ceremony also will include a moment of silence, an invocation and remarks. Following the ceremony, the veterans will be “reunited” with their loved ones.

A local barbecue restaurant and another business sponsor planned to serve 900 people food and drinks after the ceremony, but that's already reached capacity. Gramling said they will likely have multiple ceremonies throughout the evening to accommodate everyone who wants to participate.

Additional Facts
More information

Fort Campbell Week of the Eagles: www.fortcampbellmwr.com/woe/

Ellie