WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Veterans of the Vietnam War gathered Thursday at the memorial wall in Washington, D.C., commemorating Veterans Day and honoring their fellow soldiers who died.
It was an emotional ceremony for the veterans who served in an unpopular war and said they faced contempt when they came home. They said they are grateful for renewed respect for their service.
“We come from all walks of life, but we’re brothers, we’re sisters,” veteran James McCoy of Philadelphia, who traveled to D.C. for the ceremony, said. “A lot of my brothers didn’t come home.”
The memories of the long and brutal fighting in Vietnam linger with him.
“We ran the roads from Pleiku to Chu Lai, and if there was a firefight, we were first to fire, last to leave,” McCoy recalled.
“I fought a war that other people wouldn’t go to,” he added.
And many didn’t support it.
“That still hurts,” said Richard Dorsey of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who was shot in the head in Vietnam. “Coming back and finding out that we were not liked by the Americans stunned me.”
He said events like Thursday’s give him pride.
“This is great,” he said. “It brings back memories. I’ve got some war brothers that are on the wall.”
The memorial also drew loved ones of the fallen from around the country, including John Schoon of Illinois, who served in Desert Storm. He said a Vietnam veteran inspired him to join the military.
“They mean so much to me because they made sure we got the welcome that they didn’t,” he said.
He said the ceremony was therapeutic.
“There was many of times that I felt like jumping off the bridge or I want to end this, but I’m glad I’m here,” he said. “I keep thinking about the names on the walls and how I would be afraid to disappoint a vet.”
“Any day that they honor veterans is a good day,” he continued. “It almost brings tears to your eyes when you know that they care.”