For some Vietnam veterans, Thursdays event may have been the most important moment of their lives.
The President of the United States, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and former House Rep. Amos Amerson, in a variety of ways, honored Vietnam veterans from Dawson, Lumpkin and Forsyth counties with a certificate and pin for their service to our country in a special ceremony at Amicalola Falls Lodge Thursday.
It took more than 40 years for the United States to recognize our service, said Wayne Watkins, president of the Dawson County Vietnam Veterans Chapter 970. This is long overdue.
President Barack Obama, in a proclamation mailed to Dawson County Vietnam Veterans Chapter 970 and other chapters across the country, wrote:
As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor In recognition of a chapter in our nations history that must never be forgotten, let us renew our sacred commitment to those who answered our countrys call in Vietnam and those who awaited their safe return.
The Vietnam War a long, costly, armed conflict spanned 20 years, from 1955-75. It pitted the Communist regime of North Vietnam and its southern allies, known as Viet Cong, against South Vietnam and its principal ally, the United States. The divisive war, increasingly unpopular at home, ended with the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1973 and the unification of Vietnam under Communist control two years later, according to history.com.
More than three million people, including 58,000 Americans, were killed in the conflict, the website states.
Local veteran Sgt. Bill Stanley said he was not prepared for what happened when he stepped off the plane after serving in Vietnam.
People booed us, threw things at us, and spit on whoever they could, he said. They called us baby killers and woman rapers. I was turned down for jobs because I served.
When asked about his feelings on being honored for his service, he spoke misty-eyed.
You can explain stuff to people, and I can talk to my wife but she wasnt there, he said. When they handed me that pin and certificate, I was elated. Stanley served in Vietnam with the Air Force, March 1970 - March 1974.
Etched into the back of his small, metal pin is an inscription: A grateful nation thanks and honors you USA Vietnam War Commemoration.
Veteran Army Specialist 5, Margaret Higgins, served as a medic in Vietnam for two-and-a-half years, July 1969 - Feb. 1972.
Im speechless for the first time in my life, she said. We forget how important women are to the military.
Sgt. Major, Don Tackett, who served in the Army and authored a book, We Never Wanted a Parade, said he felt vindicated.
Its long overdue, getting special recognition from the Governor, he said.
Tacketts brother, David Tackett, also fought in Vietnam, June 1967 - June 1971, and attended the ceremony.
Its great because weve never been recognized by anyone but ourselves, he said.
Gov. Deals office, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, joined together to honor local veterans as part of the 50th anniversary events.
Amos Amerson, a Vietnam veteran and a former House Rep., and Cindy Hayes of the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, presented the certificates and pins.
Every man and woman here is a patriot, Amerson told the crowd of more than 100. Everyone here is proud to be an American. Welcome home.
Several Dawson County Chapter 970 members passed away prior to the ceremony. They are: David Cooper, Sherman Tank Heaton, Thomas Gunny Moore, Jim Russell, Alan A.C. Wade and Dale J. Weirmer. Their children or spouses will receive their certificates, Watkins said.