News Release
November 8, 2018
For Immediate Release
Contact: Vivian Lopez
Fort Polk 'welcomes home' Vietnam veterans in Veterans Day ceremony
Vietnam veterans walk in to their "welcome home" ceremony at Polk Airfield.

FORT POLK, La. -- As the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment Hangar doors rolled open, approximately 125 Vietnam veterans walked into a room with a cheering crowd made up of their families, friends and community members "welcoming them home" in a Veterans Day Ceremony held at Polk Army Airfield in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
After taking their seat, there was an invocation and the National Anthem was played.
Then, JRTC and Fort Polk Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank took the opportunity to "welcome home" Vietnam veterans and thank all the veterans in attendance for their service to the nation, which also included those who had served in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Panama, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Families, friends and community members cheer on Vietnam veterans.
"Our veterans have walked through the history books of the United States," Frank said. "We are in awe of their demonstrated bravery on the battlefield and their patriotic commitment to duty."
Frank addressed the Vietnam veterans in the room, telling them why they were being honored today.
"You are surrounded in this aviation hangar by a generation of soldiers that have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than any generation in American history -- 17 years of combat service. When our soldiers have returned home from combat tours, they receive a hero's welcome home," Frank said. "Our generation of soldiers will never leave a comrade on the battlefield. That is why the soldiers and their families that are here today wanted to provide you with long overdue welcome home after your service in Vietnam."
Noting the achievements of the Vietnam veterans abroad as they "patrolled through rice patties and jungles," Frank also recognized the sacrifices that they, and the 56,168 fallen Vietnam military personnel, made.
"Each of you responded when duty called, and you were on point for our nation," he said.
He also took the time to thank the families of these Vietnam veterans.
"Being a military family during the Vietnam War was exceptionally demanding. They were challenged with combat deployments, household goods, adjusting to new schools and missed birthdays and anniversaries," Frank said. "The veterans reflect the strength of our military services. Their families standing by their side represent the strength of our nation."
Concluding his speech, Frank acknowledged the efforts of veterans now serving in their communities.
"[They are becoming] contributing American citizens in hometowns like Leesville, DeRidder, Merryville, Simpson and Alexandria," Frank said. "Each veteran is committed to providing his or her new community with the loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage that is their military values."
Frank and Command Sgt. Maj. David W. Bass, JRTC and Fort Polk post command sergeant major, then conducted a wreath laying, which was followed by the Army Song.
Veterans were then invited to meet with family and friends as the ceremony came to an end.
JRTC and Fort Polk Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank and Command Sgt. Maj. David W. Bass, JRTC and Fort Polk post command sergeant major, conducted a wreath laying.
World War II veteran Alwia Olstad, who was at Fort Polk for a year from April 1943 to April 1944, travelled from San Diego, California, to attend the event.
"It's nice for them to honor the veterans like they did," Olstad said.
Also, among the attendees was Michael Reese, Fort Polk Progress president, who said he was grateful to Fort Polk for putting together the "welcome home" ceremony for Vietnam veterans from the surrounding areas and beyond.
"This 'welcome home' ceremony brought joy to many Vietnam veterans who did not receive this kind of support when they came home from the war," Reese said. "We want to thank JRTC and Fort Polk for observing our Vietnam veterans and recognizing the many sacrifices they made for our country."
Vietnam veteran Jose Blanco expressed the significance of this event, as he had never had a welcome home ceremony.
"I really appreciate them doing this for us because we never had a ceremony like this. When I got to Travis Air Force Base [after the Vietnam War], they told me not to wear my uniform and to wear civilian clothes on the airplane," Blanco said. "So, I got home and there were no ceremonies or anything. I really appreciate this. Right from the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone for being here."
Fort Polk President Michael Reese and Vietnam veteran Jerry Buckner.
Many other Vietnam veterans in attendance expressed their gratitude for the event.
"I'm glad that finally they're recognizing us for what we did and the sacrifices that we went through," said Herbert Balli, a Vietnam veteran.
"It's a great thing," added Jerry Buckner, another Vietnam veteran in attendance. "It was a long time coming. I appreciate everyone for coming out to honor us."
Vietnam veteran Lawrence L. Williams was also happy with the turnout of people who came to honor him and his fellow comrades.
"It's a good feeling," Williams said. "It's just beautiful. It makes you feel proud."

Fort Polk Progress is a regional organization focused on coordinating the efforts of the local communities, the State of Louisiana
and the Louisiana Congressional delegation on supporting the Army, the mission at Fort Polk, and the quality of life for soldiers
and families stationed in Louisiana.

For more information about Fort Polk Progress visit us on the   web, like us on   Facebook  and follow us on   Twitter.
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