More than 100 Vietnam Veterans honored at Hines VA Hospital

HINES, Ill. (WLS) -- As the nation commemorated Vietnam veterans Friday, a celebration at Hines VA Hospital brought together more than 100 local heroes.

The veterans shared stories with ABC7 and each other during the day of fellowship, from the hostile welcome that some received when they came home to stories of resilience and strength.

Before this Vietnam War Veterans Day, Leonard Adair and Jesse Alcozer didn't know each other. But the celebration lead them to realize their common bond.

"It means so much, because my brother here is a wounded veteran," Adair said, placing his arm around Alcozer.

Alcozer has been through more than most can imagine.

"I mean, I got shot seven times and I got left in the fields, in the rice paddies," Alcozer said. "I never knew or thought I would be able to come back home."

After sharing his story with Adair, the two are brothers for life.

"It just touched my heart that God spared him and he was able to make it back in one piece," Adair said.

That's exactly what this celebration was meant to do: bring together Vietnam veterans to meet one another and foster fellowship.

"They get to hang out with other veterans. They get to share stories," said Hines VA Hospital Public Affairs Officer Rick Fox. "They get to be with people who shared experiences they had."

"It's out of this world. It's a little hard at times, but it's good to get things off of your chest that you've been waiting back for to talk about," said Vietnam veteran John York.

It's an especially meaningful day for Alcozer and Adair.

"Seeing all my brothers, Vietnam vets, it makes a lot of my wounds better," Alcozer said.

It is also a way to remember their sacrifice as the soldiers receive the welcome home they deserve.

"The best thing I felt when I came home is when I was on the plane and I looked out the window and I saw Chicago, the downtown area, and like I told Len, I said, 'Oh. I know I'm home.'" Alcozer said. "It brought tears to me."

The Gary Sinise Foundation donated all of the food, and all of the veterans thanked "Lieutenant Dan" in a short video.
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