Instead of being honored for their service, people welcomed Vietnam War veterans home after the war by spitting at them and calling them “baby killers, ” said Bob Wilkinson, president of Jackson (MI) ‘s Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 109 .
More than 40 years after the end of that war, many Vietnam veterans received that “thank you” Thursday morning at the Jackson County Fair.
In addition to the display of the Michigan Vietnam Veteran Traveling Memorial, the veterans were presented a pin by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-7th District.
“To men and women who served in an unpopular war, it’s about time to say thank you, ” Walberg said. “I saw these (veterans’) chins quivering, tears in their eyes.”
The event brought on mixed emotions for many of the veterans, as the wall lists the names of all 2, 661 Michiganders who died in the war.
“The wall makes you have an empty feeling, ” Wilkinson said. “But seeing and talking to all these vets is settling. We didn’t get the thank yous when we came home, we got the spitting on.”
A pair of veterans from Holland’s VVA Chapter 73 , Bill Ricketts and Fred Troost, brought the wall to Jackson. It’s their seventh stop this year of 10 with the traveling wall.
“It’s really an honor, ” Ricketts said. “It really is a good tool to help veterans.”
The wall was escorted in by a parade of more than 150 motorcycles and police around 9 a.m. from Jackson’s Holiday Inn to the fairgrounds. A group of around 200 veterans and non-veterans gathered for the opening ceremony.
All veterans receive free admission to the fair on Thursday and Friday, provided by AT&T and its Michigan president, Jim Murray. The wall remains on display through Saturday.
Following a few words from Walberg, people walked into the American 1 Event Center to see the traveling wall and the surrounding exhibit.
A 1955 Willys Jeep from the Korean War, a map of Vietnam, tables full of war equipment, binders of the units involved in the Vietnam War, brochures of literature for veterans and more were on display.
Source: MLive/Jackson Citizen Patriot