Fort Polk gives Vietnam vets a long overdue homecoming

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FORT POLK, La. (KALB) - Veteran's Day is on Sunday, November 11, but Fort Polk celebrated a few days early.

Source: KALB

It was part of the annual ceremony on post to honor those who have served our country. But this year, they did something a little different for the Vietnam veterans.

"Returning soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen, for service in Vietnam,” Brigadier General Patrick Frank, Commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center. “On behalf of the joint readiness center at Fort Polk, welcome home."

It was a much-deserved homecoming, one that veterans like Normand Manuel didn't get back in the 70s when he got back from his tour a Marine.

"I got home, and it wasn't home,” expressed Manuel. “Nobody would talk to me. Nobody wished me to welcome home. We weren't part of this country."

It was the same for Bennett Rodgers, who served in the Army.

"At least we may have been proud, but we weren't allowed to say it because the people were so lost,” remembered Rodgers. “They just hated us."

They’re two of more than 125 veterans who took part in Fort Polk's Veteran's Day ceremony. Yes, it's meant for all veterans, but coordinators decided it was time to properly honor this group.

“When our soldiers returned home from their time overseas, they received a hero's welcome home,” said Brigadier General Frank. “Police escorts, bands, flags, and our families. That's why these soldiers and their families who are here today (Thursday) wanted to honor you with a long overdue welcome home. Fifty years after your service in Vietnam."

And for heroes who are proud to have served their country, it sure is nice to know their sacrifice is appreciated.

"I feel good, I get to see my fellow comrades and soldiers here,” said Rodgers. “I feel good."

"I like it,” expressed Manuel. “And thank you America for helping me celebrate my homecoming."

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