Special ‘welcome home’ for Vietnam vets

TULALIP — Martin Spani stepped forward to present the Vietnam veterans flag and to say some words few veterans of that conflict heard when they returned stateside.

“Let me begin by saying — finally — welcome home,” said Spani, of Lynnwood, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1040.

It’s been more than 50 years since the United States formally involved itself in Vietnam’s civil war.

Around 40 Vietnam veterans and their families gathered in the longhouse at the Hibulb Cultural Center Feb. 7 to be honored for their service.

The event’s keynote speaker was Edmonds artist Michael Reagan, who served as a Marine during Vietnam. Reagan is best known for his work with the Fallen Heroes Project where he draws portraits of servicemen and women killed in action.

“I appreciate what Mr. Spani said, to welcome us home,” Reagan said. “So many of us that made it home never heard that, aside from our families or fellow veterans.”

The Tulalip Honor Guard presented the colors, joined by VFW post commanders and the president of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The national commemoration began May 28, Memorial Day, 2012, and will continue until Veterans Day, Nov. 11 of 2025. A presidential proclamation by Barack Obama designated these 13 years as a time to honor veterans, to thank them for their service, and to remember the sacrifice so many made.

During the ceremony Chris Szarek, who runs the veteran resource center at Edmonds Community College, read a proclamation in which the president called on local, state, and federal officials to seek out and honor the veterans of the Vietnam War and their families.

“Throughout this Commemoration, let us strive to live up to their example by showing our Vietnam veterans, their families, and all who have served the fullest respect and support of a grateful Nation,” Szarek read.

The importance of the ceremony is in the honor and recognition of service.

“This signifies that Vietnam veterans will take their place among generations of our nation’s veterans,” Spani said.

The Washington State Gold Star Mothers presented the veterans with commemorative pins. They also honored the Gold Star families who attended.

Two Gold Star coins were given at the commemoration — one to the Tulalip Veterans Center, the other to the Hibulb Cultural Center to be displayed with the Gold Star Mothers memorial.

“Welcome home brothers,” a veteran said as the ceremony concluded. He was answered with cheers of welcome home.

The event was sponsored by the Washington State Gold Star Mothers and the Tulalip Veterans’ Center.

Andrew Gobin: 425-339-3000, ext. 5461; agobin@heraldnet.com.

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