By Staff Sgt. Jessica Condit
19th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
Members of Little Rock Air Force Base along with community partners kicked off the Welcome Home Vietnam Vets celebration April 5 at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History in Jacksonville, Ark.
The military service members provided a helping hand in all aspects of the event, ensuring veterans and civilian attendees were provided ample opportunity to interact with their military counterparts.
In January of 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending the presence of U.S. forces in Vietnam and sending our servicemen and women home. While fighting a war in a foreign land was a challenge for these men and women who served, coming home to friends and family seemed like an even bigger challenge for some.
With every event that was experienced and every instance that was overcome, these men and women viewed their rekindled life in a whole new light. Stepping off a plane to be shunned and hated by protestors, the service members who fought in the war on Vietnam felt helpless to the charges against them.
Dannakay Dugger, the Jacksonville Museum of Military History museum director, recalls the way she felt after seeing the faces of soldiers arriving home from Vietnam and stepping off the plane.
“As a little girl, I remembered thinking to myself if I should be for or against this war,” said Dugger. “The real trigger point was the day I watched one of the first reports of the protestors at the plane as the GIs were coming home.”
Dugger recalled how the soldiers were just so happy to be home, and looking over to see the people they thought were there to greet them. She recalled the look of confusion as they realized the protestors were yelling at them and screaming and remembered the emptiness on their faces when they realized the protestors were there to protest them.
“I remember feeling helpless and sad,” said Dugger. “This has been a burden on my heart for almost 40 years.”
Along with recognizing Vietnam veterans, the Welcome Home Vietnam Vets celebration showcased a new exhibit, “From Arkansas, to the silver fields of Vietnam,” where nearly 600 dog tags of Arkansans who lost their lives during the Vietnam conflict, hung from the ceiling on a plate shaped like Arkansas.
The event highlighted several other pieces of memorabilia from the Vietnam era, a parade, official recognition ceremony and culminated with a dinner for Vietnam veterans and guests of the event.
If you missed this year’s Welcome Home Vietnam Vet celebration, you will have many chances to make up for it. President Barack Obama declared May 28, 2012-Nov. 11, 2025 as the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War and the Jacksonville Museum of Military History plans on celebrating this 13-year commemoration.
For more information on the Jacksonville Museum of Military History or the Welcome Home Vietnam Vets event, contact (501) 241-1943 or visit www.jaxmilmuseum.org.