By Jason KUROSU
Last year, the inaugural Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans ceremony was held near the nation’s first city-sponsored Vietnam memorial, located at the corner of Honolulu Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard in Montrose. Forty-five years after its construction, veterans gathered at the memorial to share their experiences and speak about the different responses for returning Vietnam vets, as opposed to veterans from World War II who were embraced by the public.
This year, the ceremony’s organizers will also involve veterans of the Korean War, often referred to as “the Forgotten War” or “the Unknown War” due to its relative lack of public attention both during and after the war.
Vietnam veteran Mike Baldwin, who spearheaded the construction of the Two Strike Park Veterans Memorial, said, “We held our first ceremony last year and felt it would be best to address all men and women who have served over the years.”
Just as they did last year, VFW Post 1614 Commander Warren Spayth and American Legion Post 288 Commander Lynn McGinnis will speak during the ceremony.
The Montrose Vietnam Memorial was erected in 1968 after local business owners spoke with the city, emphasizing a need for a memorial dedicated to the service of soldiers in the Vietnam conflict. Nineteen names grace the wall, names of veterans hailing from Montrose, La Crescenta, La Cañada and Tujunga.
Steve Pierce, a local Vietnam veteran and honorary caretaker of the Montrose Vietnam Memorial, remembers “the scorn shown to returning Vietnam vets.”
“The late ’60s was a period of change for America. Vietnam, the Chicago Democratic convention, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations . . . it goes on and on,” Pierce said. “They were years of turmoil but we grew from it. Vietnam and the disrespect shown to our veterans was a reflection of those changing years.”
Though their efforts were not immediately recognized nationwide, events such as the Welcome Home ceremony reflect a shift in attitudes.
In addition to the Welcome Home ceremony, a Memorial Day ceremony will be held on the holiday, Monday, May 26.
The Welcome Home ceremony will be held this Saturday at 8 a.m. at the memorial site. All are invited to attend.