Just ten days short of being exactly 41 years after the war ended, South Carolina’s Vietnam Veterans got the homecoming they never had. At a rally at the Statehouse Wednesday, fellow veterans thanked them for their service and welcomed them home.
Vietnam vet Tommy Olds told his fellow veterans, “I came back from Vietnam, the stories they tell you about taking your uniforms off at the airport was true. Taking your uniform off, because you step off the airplanes and walked out to the civilians, they cursed us, called us names and spit on us. Made us feel so ashamed.”
He says now, though, he’s proud to be a Vietnam veteran.
Besides finally welcoming home Vietnam vets, the rally was to advocate for the benefits all veterans say they deserve. They’re pushing for a bill that’s now in the state Senate that would exempt all military retirement pay from state taxes. They also want the state to restore and increase funding for the state Division of Veterans Affairs and county Veterans Affairs Offices, expand benefits for certain eligible surviving spouses, and expand services for low-income and homeless veterans.
All the Vietnam vets were given special pins that commemorate their service there.
Phil Harris, of Honea Path, says, “I think it’s like the country still feels a little bit guilty about what happened to us. And we went and did our job but we came back and we’re treated like crap. Simple as that.”
But he says the homecoming ceremony and rally helped. “Especially hearing some of these guys talk and see my fellow veterans, I really think a lot of it. It kind of makes me, welcomes me home and, it does something for you,” he said, getting choked up.