Warm welcome for Vietnam veterans

DAGUS MINES - The Vietnam Veterans of America Bucktail Chapter 720 celebrated "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" on Sunday at the American Legion Post 511 in Dagus Mines. Earlier this month, the United States Senate and House introduced resolutions declaring March 30, 2011 as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day." This is the third year the Bucktail Chapter has been holding a welcome event to recognize area veterans and their families. Following the opening ceremonies, Bucktail Chapter 720 President Ron Guilyard addressed veterans and their family members. "I'm just glad to see so many people show up for this. It's a great thing to honor the vets of all wars, and I'm so proud to be the president of Chapter 720," Guilyard said. He then read "Remember Them," a poem written by Marine Corps veteran Jeff Hooker about those who died while serving their country. Recently deceased chapter members Frank Connacher, William McKinney, Gary Holtz and William "Bill" Tami were also honored.Additionally, members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Bucktail Chapter 720 were honored for milestone years. Guilyard and Louie Gregori received 15-year membership pins. Receiving pins for 10 years of membership in the chapter were Don Geci, Merv Kemmer, Ken Meredith, Dave Assalone, Fran Coccimiglio, Neil McIsaac and Richard Luzier. The United States became involved in Vietnam to prevent the spread of Communism throughout southeast Asia. Members of the U.S. military served in an advisory role to South Vietnam beginning in 1961. In 1965, the first U.S. ground combat units arrived in Vietnam, fighting against North Vietnam and the Viet Cong to help prevent South Vietnam from being taken over by a Communist government. At the end of American involvement, more than 58,000 service members died and more than 300,000 of the 2.59 million who served were wounded. According to the Congressional resolutions, "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" is officially on March 30, the same day the final withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam took place in 1973 under the terms set forth by the Treaty of Paris in January of that same year. The event is so named because of the political divide and controversy over the war while it was taking place, and the subsequent negative reception many Vietnam-era veterans received upon returning home after their military service. Congress adopted the resolutions declaring March 30 a day of welcome to encourage Americans to honor and acknowledge Vietnam vets for their service to the nation.