Vietnam veterans finally welcomed, 50 years later

- Their hair and beards are gray and they wear the patches proudly. They're the memories of the far-off war that forever changed their generation. 

"It's a feeling of anguish among many Vietnam vets," offered Bruce Burnham. 

The former high school teacher was the featured speaker at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. 

Burnham served as a military policeman in Vietnam. He formed strong bonds with his fellow soldiers. 

"They were tremendous at what they did. They cared. But when they came home, they had to bury it and that's not easy." 

Burnham believes now their stories should be told and they should finally be welcomed home. Back then, homecomings were not looked forward to by some. 

"We were made to feel so ashamed. We would never wear our uniforms because of the shame we would suffer from the public," recalled Brian Parker, who served in the Navy. 

Parker says he often comes to events at the cemetery to honor the fallen, and has welcomed younger veterans home. "We made sure it didn't happen to our brothers that served after us," he continued.

Burnham implored the audience at today’s ceremony to finally tell Vietnam veterans “Welcome home.”

“It's time to get closure,” he said. “It's time to get this situation healed. The Vietnam vet has fought just as well as any vet ever.”

The U.S. sent personnel to Vietnam as early as the 1950's, but the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration designated this week to mark the official 50th anniversary. 

A ceremony will be held Thursday at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. 

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