Hugs, cheers greet Vietnam vets this time

More than 1,000 veterans honored Thursday

The News Enterprise
August 27, 2010
By JOHN FRIEDLEIN

Gary Monroe said when he landed back in the states after serving in Vietnam, he and other soldiers were told to travel in civilian clothes — as opposed to their uniforms — because they might get shot.

Hugs and cheers, though, were what more than 1,000 Vietnam veterans received Thursday morning at Fort Knox. The tribute helped kick off Hardin County's four-day Thank You From the Heartland: A Salute to Vietnam Veterans.

They entered the ceremony through a cheering, flag-waving crowd in the sunshine and cool breeze. The Army post estimated about 2,500 were in the audience at Brooks Parade Field. The tribute included helicopter flyovers, music from the 113th Army Band and a pass in review by the 19th Engineer Battalion.

Sitting in folding chairs under a tent, veterans faced bleachers and a bunting-wrapped podium as Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of U.S. Army Accessions Command and Fort Knox, praised them.

"Today's military stands on the shoulders of giants — your shoulders," he said.

The veterans appreciated the show of support.

"It means a lot," said Don Sheroan of Rineyville.

Monroe said, "It's something that we didn't get when we came back." Monroe, of Corydon, Ind., trained at Fort Knox.

His wife, Judy, said, "I felt like they got a welcome that they deserved, but it was a little late." She also said she saw a lot of tears in veterans' eyes.

"This is tremendous," said Darrel Martin of Louisville. He said he has attended a lot of events over the years and this was a special one that got a whole community involved. Martin, who took basic training at the post, is president of the Kentucky chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America.

"On behalf of the soldiers, civilians, family members, contractors of Fort Knox: Welcome home. You have fulfilled a time-honored duty to serve our nation," Freakley said.

Freakley said the veterans never gave up getting out the message about the need for military funding and citizen support.

During the ceremony he received a plaque from Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 454.

"Because of you, we have an unbelievably effective fighting force — the best in the world — and we are an exceptional military today because you rebuilt us," said Freakley.

John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.

This story, written by John Friedlein, was provided to One Knox courtesy of The News Enterprise. Read more stories from The News Enterprise at www.thenewsenterprise.com.