Vietnam Vets honored during ceremony at Fort Hamilton

It’s never too late to welcome our soldiers home.

Fort Hamilton honored Vietnam vets during its annual Vietnam Veterans Appreciation Day ceremony on Thursday, March 26. Veterans, their families, special guests and current soldiers were in attendance at the Post Theater to remember and honor those who served in the war and didn’t often receive the proper level of appreciation.

“I was a sergeant. I was in the first infantry division in Vietnam. I did multiple tours and this is the first time I’ve ever done something like this as far as going on stage and having a welcome home ceremony for serving my country. It’s fantastic,” said Vietnam veteran Herb Morales. “It’s like being back in Vietnam with all my brothers. It’s overwhelming.”

Deputy Garrison Commander of USAG Fort Hamilton Donald Bradshaw agreed, discussing both the sacrifices and lack of appreciation for those who served in Vietnam.

“Those who did come home, you were not necessarily properly recognized,” he said.
“Your sacrifices and service there may never been fully understood.”

A special tribute to vets was performed by the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. Sergeant First Class Jorge Lopez of the 24th Civil Support Team played Taps to honor American servicemembers who died in Vietnam and those still missing in action. Sara Stevens sang the National Anthem. SPC Stephen M. Drake was the day’s Master of Ceremonies.

Retired Lieutenant General Claude “Mick” Kicklighter served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. “I can’t tell you how humbled and honored I am to be with my brothers and sisters who are here from that war,” said Kicklighter, who served as an Army officer for over 35 years. “[Veterans] endured unimaginable cruelty and hardships in that war and yet when they came home, they came home with their heads held high.”

According to Kicklighter, Congress passed a law in 2008 that authorized the Secretary of Defense to conduct programs and activities all across the country to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families.

“Our goal is to make sure that every Vietnam veteran and family member is honored and to capture the legacy of what you’ve done since you’ve left the war,” he continued. “This commemoration is all about assisting the nation to thank and honor the men and women who served in the Vietnam War.”

He played a brief video from the 2012 50th anniversary commemoration at the Vietnam Memorial, in which President Barak Obama stated, “You’re often blamed for a war you didn’t start when you should’ve been commended for serving your country with valor.”

Towards the end of the ceremony, each Vietnam vet was invited on stage to receive applause. Kicklighter and Bradshaw then presented each vet with a lapel pin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war. The back of the pin read “A grateful nation thanks and honors you.”

“Today at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York, this is your welcome home. We are pleased to present you with these Vietnam pins,” Bradshaw said.

“I will cherish the pin forever,” Morales said after the ceremony.

BROOKYLN MEDIA GROUP/Photos by Jaime DeJesus

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