LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The Vietnam War was one of the most unpopular conflicts in our nation's history. It was the first war to play out on television and as the soldiers came home from the battlefield many were met with anger by a country that was bitterly divided.
Nearly 40 years after they returned home, Southwest Louisiana gave the Vietnam veterans a long overdue welcome home Saturday.
"For your service to our country - we thank you. For not giving up when we failed to give you the honor you deserve - we thank you," said Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach.
Unlike the patriotic homecomings of today Vietnam veterans recalled returning home to a whole other world of conflict.
"No one treated us with the respect we should have had even though we was in uniform. You know we still had poor treatment from the people we were sent to protect," said Warren Summers, Vietnam Veteran.
"They called us baby killers and drug addicts," said Jim Evans, Vietnam Veteran.
"No one wanted to have anything to do with us. And when it came to the job market - no one would hire us because we had the stigma of Vietnam," said Alfred Cochran, Vietnam Veteran.
Cochran along with the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission spearheaded the event and got the day recognized as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran's Day" on the federal, state and local level.
While all gave some, those who gave all were remembered with a 21-gun salute. Even though they can't change the past today was about finally making it right.
Like the red, white and blue flag that proudly flies above, these Vietnam veterans said despite all of the heartache they would do it all again for their country.
"It feels good to have the recognition. It brings some closure. The Vietnam stigma that has always been placed on me as well as all the other Vietnam veterans," said Cochran.
Thank you cards from the public remind these old vets what is important.
"Men don't cry but I had tears a while ago when this lady gave me this thank you letter. And I try every day when I see a young soldier, man or a woman, to thank them for their service," said Evans.
"As life goes on you have to learn to forgive and love our patriots. And worry about the ones that are in Afghanistan, Iraq and other wars that are going on because it's a never ending battle," said Summers.
The American flag at Veteran's Memorial Park was flying at half staff in memory of Vinton native Army Captain Aaron Istre who died last Saturday in Afghanistan.