March 29th marks National Vietnam War Veterans Day. This year, Heartland Hospice serving North Central Illinois and Southern Wisconsin along with the City of Loves Park and Village of Machesney Park hosted a welcome home ceremony for dozens of Vietnam veterans. Emotions ran high as the veterans were honored on this day.
"This was our welcome home celebration for them," said Heartland Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, Janine Idstein. "To give them the welcome home they never received and they so dearly deserved."
Vietnam veteran and retired Sergeant Jim Puckett was the keynote speaker. The former Loves Park Police Chief was emotional at times as he recounted his experiences during the war. "A lot of the times, a lot of the families don't know what their husband or their uncles, or grandparents went through until they hear it here," said Sergeant Puckett.
"Listening to the keynote speaker, you can just feel the anguish in his voice," said Vietnam veteran Allan White. "I teared up." "You can tell how important it is to them that they showed up today," said Janine. "They need this, they wanted this. It was such an honor and a privilege for us to be able to give it to them."
Veterans took turns lining up to receive a Vietnam Veteran Commemorative pin and a salute and a slideshow of pictures from the war left not one dry eye in the room.
Allan says the celebration was something he and other Vietnam veterans have been waiting decades for. "It's just a marvelous time to sit with other veterans that know exactly what we all went through," he said.
Veteran organizations were also present to share information and offer resources to the attending veterans.
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