COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It was a proud military showing Friday at the South Carolina State House as leaders, veterans and community members recognized Vietnam veterans and the soldiers who never came home.
March 29th marks Vietnam War Veterans Day, as designated by President Donald Trump in 2017. Nationwide, Vietnam veterans are celebrated each year on this day. And in the Midlands, a motorcade of motorcycles marked the occasion in downtown Columbia.
Service members tell WIS it’s significant because these veterans, specifically, were never formally thanked for their service. In fact, when they came home from the war decades ago they were spit at, cursed, and made to wear civilian clothing in the wake of an unpopular war. Now, there’s a push to change that narrative and give these soldiers the respect they deserve.
"Vietnam War Veterans Day provides each American the opportunity to display the American flag, the greatest symbol of freedom the world has ever known,” said South Carolina’s Governor, Henry McMaster.
And James Wertman who served two tours in Vietnam says the fact that Vietnam veterans were not celebrated still stings 50 years later.
"The biggest thing for the Vietnam veteran is they've never been formally recognized. They've never been welcomed home,” Wertman said.
Dozens of bikers sporting leather and patchwork from tours across the world rode from the South Carolina Military Museum to the State House, where Governor McMaster formally recognized the day and the service of Vietnam vets as well as those who never came home.
"The military strength and tradition and notions commitment to duty, honor, country, and loyalty are strong,” said McMaster.
The simplest of greetings meant the most on this day. Veterans saluting one another, shaking hands and offering an all-knowing hug.
"This is so important because this is a beginning of the healing process,” said Wertman. “Because they get to reconnect with these other veterans down here."
Several local agencies also took part in a veterans fair at the State House from 10 AM to 2 PM offering services to veterans who may need it.