My husband and I attended a long overdue ceremony recognizing our Vietnam vets at Jewett Hall on University of Maine-Augusta’s campus on Aug 17. The event was organized by the state of Maine and the Bureau of Veterans’ Services director, Adria Horn.

About 45,000 veterans, men and women, from our state served in the Vietnam conflict. The U.S.N.S. General Nelson M. Walker transported many of the vets, 5,000 at a time, to the war zone. The actual bunks the troops slept in were displayed on the walls of the UMA gallery, their undersides covered with “grafitti” — names, caricatures of loved ones, poems and notes home — by the men who slept under them on that trip.

When, 50 years ago, these men and women returned home, they were ridiculed, spit on, and derided for serving in that war. There were no ticker tape parades, no bands playing, and no signs saying, “Thanks for serving our country.” It was a bleak homecoming, especially for those who’d been wounded in the conflict: no memorials were there for those who’d died — a shameful time for our country. I’m hoping peoples’ minds toward the military have changed over the years.

Horn presented certificates of appreciation, commemorative coins, and pins to the 40 or more veterans in attendance that evening. Veteran Fernando Paradis of Waterville noted, as he thanked the organizers for the evening: “It’s been a long time coming. I want to say, we greatly, greatly appreciate it, and on behalf of all of us … Thank you.”

It was a lovely tribute to our vets and a positive step in making peace with our past.

Alice L. Flagg


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.