Dozens of veterans were recognized in Fort Hood on Friday in honor of National Vietnam Veterans Day.
During the event, Vietnam veterans that served between 1955 and 1975 received a commemorative lapel pin for their service, valor and sacrifice.
For many, it was an emotional day that brought back memories of their first welcome home.
“I’m not getting spit on, cussed at, coke can thrown at me,” said Chester Ruffin, Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran.
The reminder of their original welcome home from what’s known as one of the longest wars in U.S. history, brought veterans to tears Friday morning.
“I still get teary eyed. I get young soldiers walking up to me thanking me for my service in Vietnam, and it makes you feel that you’re finally accepted because we weren’t when I came home,” said Steven Turner, U.S. Navy Vietnam Veteran.
Friday, those veterans were recognized, many for the very first time.
“The exchange is honored to partner with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration to offer this token of our nation’s appreciation to those who served during this time,” said Samantha Davis, Ft. Hood Exchange Store Manager. “I think they are finally feeling a little bit of pride for what they did for America. They were doing their job, they were following orders and I believe they finally feel pride in what they did to cultivate American history.”
Despite the bad memories, deaths and the culture that came with the war, the Vietnam veterans were all smiles.
“It’s great, a lot of people stop every place I go and congratulate me and I appreciate that, didn’t have that before,” said Paul Good, U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran.
“I feel a hell of a lot better than I did then (laughs) I can tell you that,” said Ruffin.
The Exchange is going to continue the pinning ceremony every year until 2025 to honor as many Vietnam veterans as possible.