PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) – A day that often goes forgotten is a day many veterans revere.
The United States on Wednesday commemorated the 50th Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Day, marking half a century since the U.S. exited Vietnam.
In Paterson, veterans and city leaders laid a wreath atop the Hill of Heroes Veterans Memorial.
“Today America says, ‘I’m sorry for forgetting you when you came home 50 years ago,'” said Vietnam veteran Tony Vancheri. “Well, we accept your apology, America. God bless the greatest country in the world.”
“There were 2.7 million of us who deployed to Vietnam. To this day, there’s approximately 600,000 of us left,” said fellow Vietnam veteran John Harris.
More than 58,000 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice in the Vietnam War, including nearly 1,600 from New Jersey.
For Army Vietnam vet Chuck Dauchert, it’s his job to honor their memory. Down the Garden State Parkway at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, Dauchert helps to educate about the war and reflects on his service. Like many Vietnam vets, he recalls not being welcomed home.
“We arrived in California, and we were told there were protestors outside,” said Dauchert.
He says many veterans couldn’t even get a cab from the Air Force Base and were called names he doesn’t even want to repeat.
“We didn’t even tell our families,” said Dauchert. “We just didn’t want to tell our families about what we went through.”
There are many ways to honor Vietnam vets, but you can always do something simple:
“Thank them because most veterans carry a lot of baggage after they leave,” said Dauchert. “As far as the Vietnam veterans, if you see a Vietnam veteran, just thank them. We always use the cliche ‘welcome home’ because of the way we were received when we came home.”