KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Fifty years after the Vietnam War, veterans were honored in Knoxville Thursday at the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial. It is an emotional place for many veterans.
“You see a lot of your best friends, and it’s just something that tears you apart inside,” said David Hancock.
Hancock is a Vietnam veteran, finding his friend’s name on the memorial.
“I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud that I served my country. I’m proud that we finally get acknowledged,” he said.
Vet to Vet Tennessee hosted the commemoration event, giving veterans and their families the thanks they did not get five decades ago. They held a pinning ceremony and presenting them with a proclamation naming October 13 as a day to honor the veterans.
“Coming home from Vietnam, we came home to the demonstrations, airline strikes,” said Freddie Owens, president of Vet to Vet Tennessee.
Hancock said, “You get called ‘child killer’ and ‘murderer.’ They spit on you. They make fun of you and everything. They don’t know what it’s like to have been there and walked in your boots.”
It is a reminder of hard times for many.
“Memorials like this, it just runs cold chills all over me. It brings back some memories I’d like to forget,” Hancock said.
They reflect on it, thankful for a hero’s welcome home.
“Unimaginable. You can’t put words on what’s happening here this morning,” Owens said.
Hancock said, “Some of us didn’t come home, and some of us did. This just makes you feel good inside.”
The ceremony also honored former, living prisoners of war, immediate family members of American military still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, immediate family members of veterans listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., and surviving spouses at the time of death.