Plans Continue for Welcome Home Vietnam Vets Event

Thursday, February 15, 2018
Members of the planning committee for the Vietnam Veteran's Welcome Home event in Rector discuss particulars following a recent gathering. Those on hand included, from left: Christa Hedrick, Joey Pruett, Todd Watson and Steven Sigsby.
TD photo/Jane Gatewood

A major event dubbed “Welcome Home Vietnam Vets” is scheduled for Saturday, March 31, in Rector. Vietnam-era (1962-1975) veterans from throughout the region are invited to Rector to participate in a parade, afternoon programmin, and an evening concert featuring Jimmy Fortune, known for his Statler Brothers years and his current solo career—which includes the song, More Than A Name On A Wall. The special event has been planned in recognition of an act by the U.S. Congress designating March 29 as National Vietnam Veterans Day.

“Our plan is to make this a major recognition event for the Vietnam-era veterans in this region,” said event organizer Joey Pruett of Rector. “We are proud of their service and want to let them know that in a meaningful way.”

The local committee is comprised of local veterans of the era, businessmen, men and women who want to reach out across the region to honor Vietnam Veterans. John Bradshaw, Chuck Bridges, Sherland Hamilton, Keith Hill, Nancy Kemp, Ron Kemp, Glenn Leach, Kim Romine and Todd Watson, along with General George Barker and Bill Carter make up the local committee with a representative from Corning to be added.

Upon hearing of the initial work of the Welcome Home committee, Rector Downtown Drug, Glen Sain Motors, Hamilton Farms and Gen. George Barker stepped-up to serve as official sponsors. In addition, Gregg Sain and Ron Kemp are making plans for a nominal cost meal to be offered at the First United Methodist Church from 4 to 6 p.m. prior to the evening concert. Organizers also report MOR Media and the Delta Crossroads magazine will serve as partners for the event.

The celebration is slated to kick-off at 2 p.m. with a parade along Rector’s Main Street, culminating at the Veterans Memorial where a ceremony will take place. As part of the remembrance, veterans from the Vietnam era will either march or ride in the parade followed by veterans of any other recent U.S. combat forces and/or U.S. military reserves. Honor guards, color guards, marching bands and other groups will fill the parade route. All citizens from throughout the region are invited to line the parade route with flags, signs and other appropriate “Welcome Home” celebratory items.

Plans are also underway to involve area schools through U.S. history classes, assemblies, and/or classroom guest speakers. As part of the effort, a brochure is being created to assist schools in their preparation and involvement.

At the most recent monthly meeting of the Welcome Home Committee, ideas for involving as many people as possible were discussed. Making sure the Vietnam-era Veterans know about the event, and are encouraged to participate, is a primary goal.

“Many veterans find it difficult to talk about their experiences and many keep to themselves, not wanting to draw undue attention,” Pruett said of the effort. “We want to make this a special event for these veterans, one they will enjoy. Part of the reason for the planned lunch is to allow veterans opportunity to talk, share memories and feel supported by fellow veterans and area citizens.”

Understanding the emotions which are sure to surface during the planned recognition activities, Pruett and several other committee members echoed much the same sentiments. “This Welcome Home Celebration may only apply salve to some Vietnam-era veteran's deep wounds, but we hope everything we do carries a clear message of appreciation, respect and honor long overdue,” Pruett offered—a sentiment echoed by Watson and committee members Steven Sigsby and Christa Hedrick.

Tickets for the evening concert by Jimmy Fortune are available at the Rector Water Office and on the event website, Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Celebration at https://christah8.wixsite.com/vietnamvetswelcome

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