On the 30th anniversary of the end of the war, Vietnam veterans will be given the “homecoming celebration they never received” at a conference organizers hope will draw 100,000 people.
Vietnam veterans memorial in Washington, D.C.
“During those three decades, the brave men and women who served in that conflict have never been given the recognition they deserve for their heroic sacrifices in service to our country,” the organizers, Operation Homecoming USA, say in a statement.
“Now, the time for that recognition has come.”
The board of directors for the first-ever national event, scheduled for June 13-19 in Branson, Mo., include entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Ross Perot, chairman emeritus of UPS Stores Jim Amos and NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Smith.
“By honoring those who answered their country’s call during a difficult time in our nation’s history, the legacy of duty, honor and country will be passed on to America’s sons and daughters who will be called to serve in the future,” the organizers say. “It’s an idea whose time has come.”
The weeklong tribute will be capped off by a festival of national acts, including the Oak Ridge Boys, the Fifth Dimension, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Beach Boys, Creedance Clearwater Revisited, Ann-Margret, Mary Wilson, Tony Orlando, Les Brown’s Band of Renown with Les Brown, Jr., and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.
It also will feature a flyover of every type of aircraft used in the war.
During the week, smaller-scale reunions of veterans will be organized.
Operation Homecoming USA said it “approached a broad spectrum of national and regional experts to provide oversight of this sensitive project.”
The event comes after a presidential election campaign that revisted some of the war’s most contentious issues. But the spotlight on John Kerry’s 1972 characterization of Vietnam servicemen as war criminals — regarded as a major reason why they were scorned — brought out many veterans publicly to help set the record straight and defend their honor.
A promotional video on the organizers’ website says, “Over 3 million proud men and women served their country. Unfortunately, in the political debate, the Vietnam veteran was left on the battlefield.”
The video says the idea for the conference began as a conversation between two Missouri veterans, Gary Linderer and Steve Presley.
Speaking at a news conference captured on the video, Amos said putting the event together is “a duty born out of love, and it is the right thing to do.”
“What has remained for more than 30 years has been a hole in the heart of America,” he said. “Now is the time for healing. Now is the time to welcome home the only veterans group that has never been officially welcomed home in American history.”
The event, Amos said, will say “thank you to our fallen brothers and sisters on the other side of that wall. And, while its been a long time coming, to those Vietnam veterans on this side of the wall, welcome home.”