Vietnam War vets plan event for 2011

November 11, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Mike Reynolds and Julie Viduya are both Vietnam War veterans. Four decades ago, their homecoming was met with indifference and even hostility.

"Oh you smoke dope, and you're a baby killer, and you're doing all this. That's not what we were doing. We were doing our jobs. We were in the military," said Viduya.

"Very emotional," said Reynolds.

Thirteen years after the last combat death in Vietnam, Chicago hosted a welcome home celebration. The event included a tickertape parade, 500,000 people cheering and 175,000 Vietnam vets marching.

"It was very emotional because you felt the love of the city and the people." said Viduya.

It was an event so cathartic, many believe it was the seed that changed a national mood.

June 2011 will mark 25 years since that celebration. Some of that event's organizers are planning a huge Silver Anniversary celebration meant to pass the torch to younger veterans of foreign wars.

"We want to make sure they don't have the same kind of treatment that we did with not getting health benefits, or not recognize that there are problems with PTSD," said Roger McGill, organizer for Welcome Home 2011.

"It's not about us. It's about the next generation and making sure that they get the feeling that Roger and I got walking down LaSalle Street 25 years ago," said Mike Larocco, organizer for Welcome Home 2011.

Vietnam War veteran Mike McMeel was at that parade in 1986 and knows about passing the torch.

"I just hope it makes people realize what those kids over there are going through and we have to treat them with compassion for the their ills and we have to treat them as we all want to be treated, with the respect that's due them," said McMeel.

The organizers of Welcome Home 2011 won't replicate the parade from 1986, which was a grassroots, once in a lifetime event. However, they hope to recapture the spirit of the 1986 parade with a huge rally at Navy Pier.

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