Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans & War Dogs Remembrance Event honors those who served

This week marks 50 years since the last U.S. troops returned home from Vietnam back in 1973. Saturday, veterans and their families came together in Hillsborough County for the annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans & War Dogs Remembrance Event to honor the lives lost and those who served.

It’s now been half a century since the last remaining U.S. troops returned home from the Vietnam War, but at the time for those who fought their service and sacrifice wasn't met with appreciation.

"We came back to kind of a disingenuous society, someone who didn't understand, someone who maligned the very brave men that were over there was very sad for us," U.S. Air Force Retired Col. Linda Pugsley said.

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Pugsley served two tours in Vietnam as a flight nurse and was 22-years-old when she joined the war effort.

"It's very difficult to come from a combat situation. There's so much intensity, there's so much going on. There's so much loss. As a nurse, we saw the most devastating wounds," Pugsley said.

Like many who served, Pugsley felt a lot of Americans at the time simply didn't understand what was really happening in Vietnam and for that weren't welcoming to troops when they came home. It's why every year Hillsborough County hosts their annual "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans & War Dogs Remembrance Event" at Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa ahead of National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29th.

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"We all gave up dreams, schools and jobs, and we did it because we loved our country, and we loved what America was back then. It sadly proved we loved America more than America loved us," Pugsley said.

The event featured a rifle salute and taps from Marine Corps League Detachment 1226 in Riverview along with a pinning ceremony for veterans and gold star families. As Pugsley explains, it's an emotional day for many.

"I am so touched every time I come to these, because many times the Vietnamese people are here, and they're happy that we help. They were able to get here so what seemed like useless. Why were we there and just left? But there was some things that were done, and we were able to help them," Pugsley said.