Plans in place to mark 1986 Vietnam vets parade

June 15, 2011 (CHICAGO)

It was a remarkable and emotional event for thousands of Vietnam vets. Many had felt slighted, ignored and insulted when they had returned home from that unpopular war.

"I think it's important that we just don't forget," said Mike LoRocco, Vietnam Marine vet.

LoRocco is talking about the Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Parade he helped organize. Now, 25 years later, a celebration commemorating the parade is this weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"It took a long time for the Vietnam veterans to come home, be welcomed back. The difference between the war and the warriors, we always need to remember that there's a big difference between those two," said LoRocco.

Hundreds of thousands showed up for the welcome home Vietnam parade in Chicago 25 years ago, the largest welcome home event for Vietnam vets in the nation. It took place 11 years after the war ended.

"The parade was a healing experience. We want to make sure that the guys from Iraq and Afghanistan and the guys fighting now, they don't have to wait 15, 20 years to have their parade," said LoRocco.

Now a handful of vets are planning the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam veterans parade this weekend, including a ceremony Friday at Navy Pier and Saturday a kickoff rally at Navy Pier and hero's gala at Palmer House, and Sunday an interfaith service at the Vietnam Memorial Plaza and a concert in the park.

One of the organizers of the parade 25 years ago, Marine First Class Charles Labrano recently passed away. It was his idea to do an anniversary celebration.

"This is his baby. It started here, and also, just the stories that I have heard, even recently from the veterans that are on our committee of how they were treated, I think it is so important that we really make sure that never happens again," said Deana Olson.

Olsen, Charles Labrano's daughter, is helping to organize the events and to sell shirts, commemorative pins and tickets to all of the festivities.

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