Vietnam Veterans invited to “Welcome Home Celebration” (with video)

A “Welcome Home Celebration for all Vietnam Veterans” will take place on Friday, May 19, 2017 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Brigham City. The event begins with a veterans’ luncheon on Utah State University’s Brigham City Campus (989 S. Main Street) and ends with a “Pass and Review” homecoming celebration and roll call at the Box Elder County Courthouse (1 S. Main Street in Brigham City).

Beginning at 5 p.m., the community is encouraged to gather at the courthouse in support of the veterans, many of whom have never been shown proper appreciation for their service in Vietnam.

“Come, thank our veterans, shake their hands and welcome them home,” said Jenny Schulze, who is spearheading the event.  “The war wasn’t their fault but they stood up and did what their country asked. Then they came home, and they weren’t treated as heroes. They were viewed as baby killers and they were even spit upon, so we need to right that wrong and give them the homecoming they deserve.”

Schulze, who serves as director of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Utah, said the idea for the Welcome Home Celebration began when a veteran who is currently serving recently received a warm welcome home from deployment.  

“With Boys & Girls Club, we do try to focus on our military families and veterans because it helps the whole family,” Schulze said. “One of the Vietnam veterans [who attended the event] was like, ‘They deserve that 100 percent, but it’s still kind of hard to see them get that homecoming when we came home to such bad circumstances.’”

At that point, Schulze decided it was time to take action, leveraging her connections with veterans groups in Cache and Box Elder counties to coordinate a community celebration.

“We were just going to do something small here at the Boys & Girls Club, and it kind of just grew legs of its own and blossomed into something else,” she said.

Speaking as a guest on the <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/104TheRanch/videos/450878478593569/” target=”_blank”>Bear River Coaches and Community Show</a>, Vietnam veteran Mike Stever said, “I think she’d heard some of the stories I told and kind of got a bee in her bonnet and said, ‘Let’s correct this,’ and has organized community groups and business groups and private citizens and veterans to come together and make it happen.”

So far, nearly 90 Vietnam veterans from throughout Northern Utah and Idaho have registered to participate in the Welcome Home Celebration, and every Vietnam veteran who’d like to attend is welcome. Registration will be accepted at the door beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Friday. Following the luncheon, guests will attend a special presentation of “The Journey Home,” a 2016 film featuring Vietnam veterans.

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“It’s a documentary that talks about their journey when they returned home after the war and how they weren’t treated well and then were quickly forgotten,” explained Schulze. “So they got home, they really were not treated well, and kind of them having to forgive and kind of move on and go on with their life. And kind of, too, as a nation healing and realizing it’s one thing to maybe protest your government, but you never protest the soldiers or go against the soldiers.”

Stever, who served two tours in Vietnam between 1967 and 1971, said returning from the war to such overt protest and hostility was “hard to swallow.”

“It’s a big difference now between 1917 when we came home,” he told Bear River Coaches and Community Show host Clint Payne. “Mostly, if there was any welcome at all, it was harsh. People were hollering and throwing stuff and calling us baby killers. My plane that I came home back to America on had to land at night because there was so much trouble between the airport and the Army base that they started sneaking us in under the cover of darkness. We were in the field kind of fighting for each other.  You just wanted to get through, do your job, get home in one piece. And when that happened, it was demoralizing, but you’d just try to make the best of it, kind of look the other way and move on.”

Nearly 50 years later, Stever is grateful for the opportunity to be involved in helping other Vietnam veterans receive long overdue recognition and thanks for their military service.  Immortalizing the effort will be a 6-foot bronze sculpture of a bell, created by local artist Doug Adams and donated to Box Elder County for permanent placement at the courthouse.

“There’s a fair number of buddies that didn’t come home and this is kind of for them, too,” Stever said. “It will be forever.”

Sponsors of the Welcome Home Celebration for All Vietnam Veterans include Box Elder County, Brent Gillies, Coca-Cola, Iron Gate Grille, Malone Molgard, Members First Credit Union, Nucor Steel, Utah State University and Walmart. The luncheon will be free of charge for Vietnam veterans, with $5 meal tickets available for family members. T-shirt sales at the event will benefit efforts to provide service dogs to veterans with PTSD. For <a href=”https://www.facebook.com/events/1450354001681985″ target=”_blank”>more information</a>, call Jenny Schulze at 435-723-6224 ext 5342 or email <a href=”mailto:mepowell1515@gmail.com”>mepowell1515@gmail.com</a>. 

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