A “Welcome Home Celebration for all Vietnam Veterans” (with audio)

BRIGHAM CITY — “I have never in my life seen my dad cry or show emotion,” said Rachelle Miller. “That really must have meant a lot to him today.”

Miller, a resident of Mendon, joined her family in Brigham City Friday evening, May 19, for a “Welcome Home Celebration for all Vietnam Veterans.” Her father, Sgt. Ray Yoder from Garland, served in the United States Air Force and arrived in Vietnam on May 27, 1965 as part of the military build-up. He spent 90 days in Vietnam that impacted the rest of his life.

“We were flying F4C Phantoms,” Yoder said, “flying close air support missions for the ground troops in Vietnam. I was TDY, temporary duty. And everybody who came after me was permanent.”

Organized by Jenny Schulze, director of the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Utah, Friday’s event for veterans like Yoder was billed as “the homecoming you deserved all those years ago.” As nearly 90 Vietnam Veterans met a cheering crowd at the Box Elder County Courthouse, it was clear that the long-overdue welcome home was meaningful.

“When we come home, they didn’t like us very much, and we had a lot of people that called us names, throwed garbage at us and everything else, and to have this happen now is really great,” Yoder said. “I appreciate it.”

Many of the veterans attended the celebration in uniform, proudly representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Many of the participants were highly decorated. Some of them had been wounded in Vietnam. All of them remembered “buddies” who didn’t come home.

The interview recorded in the audio file below reflects the experience of Dora and Douglas Hobbs, who live in Brigham City. Douglas Hobbs was an Army helicopter mechanic crew chief. He served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968 and was wounded in the <a href=”http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/tet-offensive”>Tet Offensive</a>.

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As their names were called during a roll call ceremony held for the veterans, each stood proudly. The comradery among them was evident throughout the evening social, as was their patriotism.

“Most Vietnam vets are really close anyway,” said Yoder. “Whether you was in combat or not, as long as they served as you did, they went through the same stuff you did, and most of us are really close. In fact, when we first came home, that’s the only ones that we associated with was other Vietnam vets, and it took a long time to open up and kind of get back into society.”

Another of Yoder’s daughters, Shantelle Spackman of Deweyville, said it was awesome to see her dad be honored by his community along with his fellow veterans.

“He just always instilled patriotism in us, and I love this country more than anything,” said Spackman. “I think that’s why, and I’m just proud of him.”

“I think it was a great day for our Vietnam veterans,” said Schulze, “and it was great to see so many people come out and welcome them home. I got a chance to ride down on the bus with them and you could tell there were some happy soldiers and airmen, and it was a great experience.”

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jennifer@cvradio.com 

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