Vietnam veterans received commemorative lapel pins and were entertained by the USO Show Troupe Friday morning at KleinLife during a ceremony marking National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Many who returned home from the war, which ended nearly 50 years ago, weren’t welcomed with parades and celebrations, and some were treated poorly and greeted with protests.
Friday’s ceremony, held in the Bustleton community center’s auditorium, served as a form of redress for the veterans and their families.
“It was an unpopular war, and many Americans vented their frustrations on the men who were fighting, and that wasn’t right,” U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey told the Times.
“This is a chance for us to say — as a country, as a society, as greater Philadelphia — to say thank you to the folks who served under very difficult circumstances and made a big sacrifice for all of us,” added Toomey, who also spoke at the ceremony.
The last combat troops were ordered out of Vietnam on March 29, 1973, and Toomey co-authored legislation signed by President Donald Trump in 2017 designating the date as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Veterans who attended Friday’s ceremony were treated to a performance by members of the USO Show Troupe, which travels around entertaining service men and women.
The group performed several songs, including Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen.
Retired U.S. Army Colonel Sherwood “Woody” Goldberg, who serves as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, was the event’s keynote speaker. He recounted his experiences serving in Vietnam, including when President Richard Nixon visited his division.
Goldberg told the veterans to be proud of their service and said the war made a positive impact on Southeast Asia.
“It was a tough war,” he said. “We stood tall. We did not run from our duty or our buddies.”
Others who spoke at the ceremony included retired Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig; Brig. Gen. Mark Simerly, commander of the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support; James Donahue, president of the Association of the U.S. Army’s William Penn Chapter; Pam Henshall, president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Coy Smith, associate director of patient care services at the Crescenz VA Medical Center.
City Councilman At-Large David Oh also attended the event.
The Northeast High School Marching Band performed prior to the start of the ceremony as the veterans were arriving.
The program was sponsored by the GNPCC, and DLA Troop Support, the Crescenz VAMC and the AUSA William Penn Chapter served as commemorative partners. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at email@example.com