Fort Sill Welcomes Home Vietnam Veterans

When they came home from war, most Vietnam veterans, often referred to as the forgotten veterans, weren't welcomed.

Many shunned or ignored them and some were even spat on.

Willie Staton, a Vietnam veteran, says, "We were in a different time.  Society was changing.  Everyone had different agendas."

Paul Fitzgerald, a Vietnam veteran, says, "It was actually a lonesome feeling when I came home because I didn't have anyone and I was standing at a bus stop waiting for a bus."

Leo Perez, a Vietnam veteran, says, "From the bus ride to my home was 10 miles.  I walked the next 10 miles.  As soon as I stepped foot on the sidewalk, people started honking at me.  I thought they were going to say, 'Welcome home,' but they were giving me the finger and cussing at me."

"We went into unchartered waters the way they're doing it now," Staton says.

"I started watching the news and I saw how even the government wasn't backing us up, so it was very disappointing to say the least," Perez says.

"We learned to live with the adversity," Staton says.

But today's soldiers want to make sure those veterans know their service is not forgotten.

Fort Sill soldiers, family, friends, and students from Geronimo Road Elementary gave those heroes a "welcome home" some of them have waited more than 50 years to hear.

Students lined the roadways and waived flags to give the more than 500 Vietnam veterans the welcome home most missed when they returned, which was drastically different than what most received so many years ago.

Current soldiers and community members filled Rinehart Physical Fitness Center and threw the veterans a welcome home celebration.

"The greeting, the welcome home, the thank yous, it's made up more than enough, really," Perez says.

"It means a whole lot, especially those little kids out there waving," Fitzgerald says.

"This just allows me to feel what these welcome homers now feel," Staton says.

"It touches your heart, makes you feel at home," Perez says.  "It makes you feel like you've really accomplished something after all."

Tomorrow, vets will be honored at the Vietnam War Commemoration Ceremony at 11 a.m. at McMahon Auditorium in Lawton.

And if you want to join in saying those two words they never got to hear, the public is invited to attend.

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