By Navar Watson
Fifty years ago marked the beginning of the Vietnam War. In the following years, many Americans fought, but were never thanked.
So on June 14, the Horseshoe Prairie Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution honored Hamilton County residents who served in Vietnam – those who survived and those who were lost.
During the Flag Day ceremony, a commemorative flag for the war’s anniversary was raised outside the Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center.
“Fifty years ago, [these veterans]didn’t receive the thanks that they deserved when they came home,” Chapter Regent Amanda Mizell said. “This is just to welcome them home and thank them for their service.”
Since many Americans opposed U.S. involvement with the Vietnam War, veterans didn’t receive much gratitude or celebration upon their homecoming. Many veterans, like Mizell’s father, were told not to wear their uniforms on the way back.
The day James Martin came back from service in 1967, he was spat on.
“That was just part of the culture,” Martin, a Hamilton County resident, said. “Nobody liked the Vietnam War. A lot of young guys went off to Canada. … Most of the guys – in fact, all of the guys I went in with – were drafted.”
Martin was almost 23 years old when he was drafted, basically an “old man,” he said. “These were all kids.”
Martin joined several other veterans and families at the ceremony, many of whom he’s come to know over the years. One soldier, who died in combat, had a niece, mother and grandmother in attendance.
The Horseshoe Prairie Chapter became a commemorative partner with the U.S. Department of Defense in January for the war’s anniversary. Since November, Mizell and her group have been distributing certificates to Vietnam veterans in senior living facilities in honor of their service.
Noblesville Mayor John Distlear and Rep. Kathy Richardson gave tributes at the event, and Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt read a list of local residents who died in battle.
Richardson closed her speech with the following words:
“While we remain restless for having not given a proper ‘welcome home,’ we find comfort in knowing a higher home—God’s home. And they were welcomed with open arms.”