Vietnam veteran Steve de Lyra remembers returning from the service to a hostile homecoming.
“The typical reaction was that of spurn and disrespect,” he said. “I don’t think the current veterans have an appreciation, in most cases, for what it was like to come back from a hostile environment.”
He hopes they never have to learn.
A few years ago, de Lyra joined the local Vietnam Veterans of America organization after meeting the group’s president, Wayne Watkins.
“When Wayne ended our conversation, he said: ‘Welcome home, brother,’ and that got me, right there,” de Lyra said. “I’ve been involved ever since.”
The group of about five dozen is heavily involved in the community through various service projects and ceremonies that honor veterans.
“Generally speaking, veterans are serving their country, so it’s not a stretch to realize they’ve got this attitude of serving,” de Lyra said.
He’s especially looking forward to the county’s annual Veterans Day Parade and ceremony on Nov. 11.
“The way Dawson County treats veterans is especially important to Vietnam veterans,” he said.
The sixth annual Veterans Day Celebration begins at 3 p.m. with a formal ceremony at Dawson County Middle School, followed by a parade through downtown Dawsonville at 4 p.m.
The event, which will feature gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal as keynote speaker, is one of only two in the state recognized as a Veterans Day Official Site by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Georgia’s only other site is in Atlanta.
For more information about the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, contact Wayne Watkins at (706) 429-5002.