Local Vietnam War Veterans were "welcomed home" on Saturday at a recognition ceremony hosted by the U.S. Exercise Tiger Foundation.
The ceremony served as the official Mid-Missouri tribute marking the 50th anniversary of when the last combat troops left South Vietnam in 1973.
USTF, a non-profit organization and U.S. Department of Defense partner, hosted the ceremony at Odd Fellows Lodge 207 in downtown Columbia.
Veterans were welcomed into the building with a red carpet to walk on.
Local Callawegian Stan Adams spoke at the ceremony. Adams was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment ("Manchu," Bravo Co.), 25th Infantry Division.
Adams is the author of the book "Mokane to Mole City," a Manchu Vietnam memoir that reflects on his service from Nov. 1968-Nov. 1969.
The book describes his experiences at "Mole City," which was a combat patrol base camp near the Cambodian border.
To learn more about the book, visit luckysnipe.com/-mokane-to-mole-city---a-vietnam-memoir-by-stan-adams.
In his emotional speech, Adams described what it was like returning home from war without a welcome.
"The country didn't welcome us home, they just placed military guards at the airport to ensure our safety as we deplaned," he said. "We were even told not to wear our military uniforms home so we wouldn't be singled out and harassed but I did just to honor my fallen comrades."
Adams said the healing process for Vietnam Veterans happens in many ways, but for him it was when he went to his first Manchu reunion in 2003. Here he was able to reunite with his fellow Veterans and see the families of his fallen comrades.
He urged each Veteran to write down their military experiences to let their families know what they did. He also encouraged Veterans to sign up for the Central Missouri Honor Flight, as it's a "welcome home we didn't receive."
"My pledge to all who answered our countries call to serve: 'We stood up, we raised our right hand, we did not run, we did not hide. We did not dodge, we did not evade. Consequently, we have nothing to prove, no one to convince. Those who matter already know. Those who don't, never will,'" Adams said.
Medals of combat valor and military achievement medals were awarded to Veterans.
7 Vietnam Veterans from Callaway County attended the event. The Veterans include Adams, Jerry Chapman, Dave Coleman, David Hosenfelt, Dale LaRue, Terry Underwood and Danny Rose. Jerry Giboney also received medals from the event.
Several others speakers presented at Saturday's ceremony. Speakers include Randy Lane with the Missouri Veterans Commission; Walter Domanski, USTF executive officer/PAO; and Justin Aldred, Boone County Commissioner.
John Hopson, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel, read remarks from Wayne Wallingford, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.
"As a fellow Vietnam Veteran, I know first-hand what it was like to return home from service and be greeted only by disappointment," Wallingford's remarks state. "While it saddens me that it has taken fifty years, I am delighted that you all are finally receiving the Hero's Welcome that you so deserve."
Vietnam Veterans were recognized with a Missouri House of Representatives Certificate of Recognition from Representatives Ann Kelly and Dave Griffith. The certificate was read by Susan Haines, USTF national executive director.
"Now, therefore, be it resolved that we, the members of the Missouri House of Representatives, One Hundred Second General Assembly, join to salute those who are present and those who are here in spirit, and to convey to them this legislative body's most heartfelt appreciation for their service as a member of the United States Armed Forces," the Certificate of Recognition states.