Wyoming Honors its Veterans on Monday
Korean War veterans were ignored.
Vietnam vets likewise were at best ignored, and at worst treated despicably when they returned from the controversial war in the 1960s and 1970s.
Decades later, the nation and Wyoming have been making amends, Wyoming National Guard Adjutant General Major Gen. Greg Porter said Monday at the first Wyoming Welcome Home Veterans commemoration event sponsored by the Wyoming Veterans Commission.
The Legislature passed, and Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law the commemoration for March 30 that was the date Wyoming combat troops would have returned from the Vietnam War in 1973.
Monday’s event started in Cody then moved to the Casper-Natrona County International Airport, and finally in Cheyenne. Gordon, Porter and Veterans Commission Chairman Keith Davidson spoke at all the events; with local veterans and public officials or their representatives speaking at the individual locations.
Porter, who officially assumed command Thursday, recounted his military experience when he spoke to the more than 100 veterans, their families and friends, and the Patriot Guard motorcycle group.
His father-in-law was a Vietnam veteran, and he knew them when he was an Army private.
Those vets, Porter said, knew the face of war, the disciplines of cleaning weapons and cleaning feet, and the ability to make C-rations edible, which drew groans and laughs from many in the audience who endured the same gastronomic hardships.
They taught an unforgettable lesson in enduring the scorn and apathy when they returned from a war that divided the nation, he said, adding that veterans deserved better regardless of the public support of or animosity toward the conflict.
After the event, Porter said his generation and those deployed in the global war on terrorism, have had a heartwarming welcome from friends, neighbors and communities particularly in Wyoming.
“I think that is a direct result of the way the Vietnam veterans were treated. I think everybody has come to [the conclusion] that we do not want to repeat that again,” he said.
“You can have an opinion about a conflict, whether we should be there or not,” Porter said.
“But I think everybody has come to realize that soldiers, airmen, Marines — the folks that go fight; that’s their duty to do,” he said.
“Whether you agree with that conflict or not, still respect those people that go and lay their lives on the line,” Porter said. “That’s what I wanted to bring out to these folks because of the sacrifices made and the situations they went through, they have made such an indelible impression on our country that I think that most people resolved never to treat their armed forces like that again."
Gordon told the audience that his wife came from a military family, and she recalled how disgracefully her brother was treated when he returned from Vietnam.
Glenn Catchpole served two tours of duty during Vietnam and flew more than 200 missions with the Navy on the USS Kittyhawk.
When he returned, he was greeted by protesters and just as bad were the Americans he met who were unaware of the war itself, Catchpole said.
Davidson, like the other speakers, thanked the veterans for their service.
He also pointed to the bright orange tie he wore in observance of the damage done by the defoliant Agent Orange that was used heavily during the Vietnam War and caused death and illness to the soldiers who came in contact with it.
Davidson urged the Vietnam vets to sign up for the Agent Orange Registry, he added.
After the event, Porter shook hands and chatted with veterans including Harold Hubbard, the only World War II vet at the event. Hubbard added his brother was in the war, too.
Hubbard, who was about to sail from Florida to the Pacific Ocean when the atom bombs were dropped that ended the war with Japan, said he appreciated the Wyoming Welcome Home Veterans commemoration.
“[It was] a recognition for what we had to do,” he said. “And a recognition that at least like the young people of this country said, “If it hadn’t been for you, we wouldn’t be here.’”