Southwest Louisiana has had many Veterans observances over the years, but never one that really focused on thanking Vietnam Veterans specifically for their service. That's about to change.
"When we came home from Vietnam, we came home to a hostile environment," recalled retired Army colonel James Jackson. "We were not welcomed home. We had various objects thrown at us. Spit at. And nobody ever said, 'Welcome home, brother. Thank you for your service.'"
On Saturday, March 31, 2012, the Lake Charles Mayor's Armed Forces Commission will hold a "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans" day at Veterans Park. It's a chance for everyone in the Lake Area to show how grateful they are to veterans of the war. Alfred Cochran served in Vietnam and came home with post traumatic stress disorder. He's looking forward to Saturday.
"It's kind of a healing and closure," said Cochran. "I've always had this stigma of Vietnam added to me...all my life. It's going to help me get rid of this Vietnam that's always been attached to me."
There will be guest speakers, bands and other entertainment to thank those who served in the Vietnam era.
"And we're looking back at that and saying 'maybe we didn't do a good job at that,'" said Jackson. "Maybe we didn't take care of our soldiers the way we should have. The soldier over there was doing a job. We were at the service of our country."
The ceremony gets underway at 10 a.m. at Veterans Park. A fellowship will follow at American Legion Post 1.