CHELSEA – Thursday was the first annual “Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Day.”
Among the ceremonies held across the country was one at the Togus Regoinal Veterans Center.
“There was no greeters when we came home. Except for people with hatred, throwing rocks and spitting on you,” said Ellsworth Lawrence, who was a U.S. serviceman in Vietnam. More than 50,000 American soldiers lost their lives during the 21 years U.S. troops were in Vietnam.
Today, veterans coming back from war zones are greeted with cheers. In the 1960s and 1970s, Vietnam veterans returning were treated quite differently.
According to historynet.com, the first American fatality in Vietnam was recorded when an American military advisor was killed in 1956.
“I come pretty close to getting blown up in my truck. I was very fortunate,” said Robert Valliere, a Vietnam veteran.
It was during the John F. Kennedy administration that American involvement in Southeast Asia increased.
“It’s the soldiers who went to war because their country asked them to. They were patriotic and did their duty,” Maine Governor Paul LePage told the more than 100 people gathered at the Togus Veterans Center Thursday morning.
For many of the vets in attendance, this appeared to be a long overdue welcome back.