by Dale Bohren

If ever there was someone who deserves to be welcomed home after the term of service, it’s U.S. servicemen and servicewomen. Typically, veterans are welcomed home with ceremonies, brass bands and a slap on the back for a job well done — and rightly so, if you value freedom.

This was not, however, the case with Vietnam veterans. They may have been quietly welcomed home by their families and friends, but the country as a whole did not offer them ceremonies and brass bands. There were certainly no parades, and sometimes these veterans were treated less than decently for their service. The country was at a crossroads politically, and there were sea changes in music, culture and civil rights underway. In many ways, this period was a turning point for us.

But the fact is, no matter how one might feel about the war itself, the young men and women — or more aptly put, the boys and girls — who served their country 40 to 50 years ago during the Vietnam era deserved better. Their country called, and whether they were drafted or volunteered, they answered that call. Their service was no small thing.

The Veterans Administration estimates there are nearly 16,000 Vietnam veterans living in Wyoming today. This number represents a lot of service to our country. And many of them continue to serve; mayors of at least four Wyoming towns last year were Vietnam veterans.

What to do? We can’t go back, but moving forward there is something we can do. For starters, plan to attend the Vietnam veterans’ welcome home parade at 10 a.m. June 6 through downtown Casper. It is certainly not a lot, but the opportunity to acknowledge these veterans and say “Thank you for your service” should not be missed.

Beginning this week and continuing for the next two years, the Casper Journal and the Casper Star-Tribune will offer readers a good look at the face of Vietnam veterans today with “They Served With Honor: Vietnam.” Find the first one on page A3 in this week’s Casper Journal.

Profiles will also be available at www.trib.com/honor, often with additional photos and audio recordings of the veterans talking about their experiences. The profiles from “They Served With Honor: World War II,” completed in 2011, will also be available online. At the end of the project in May 2017, we will publish a hardcover compilation of all the stories. The book, a collector’s edition, will serve to honor, value and remember all veterans’ service to our country from today into the future.

Our sponsors, Granite Peak Group, Hilltop National Bank, Mountain View Regional Hospital and the McMurry Foundation, joined the Wyoming Veterans Commission and us to thank Vietnam veterans for their service without hesitation. We hope you will, too.