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‘Big Red One’ gives Vietnam veterans welcome home they never received

By Spc. Derrik Tribbey | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | June 17, 2016

     The 1st Infantry Division welcomed home Vietnam veterans during a ceremony June 8 at Marshall Army Airfield on Fort Riley.

     The Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Ceremony was held to honor service members from all military branches with standing applause during the division’s Victory Week, an annual celebration of the Army and division birthdays.

     “As I watched our service members of Vietnam march in here like the steely eyed, battle-proven men of valor they are, I thought to myself, ‘wow, these are my heroes,’” said Maj. Gen. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley commanding general. “These are the great patriots of America.”

     The ceremony marked the United States of America Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration. The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act authorized the Secretary of Defense to conduct events across the nation to honor service, valor and sacrifice of freedom’s warriors. This was the second welcome home for Vietnam veterans at Fort Riley. The first was in November.

     Retired Staff Sgt. Wiley Morris, a former administrator with both the Marines and the Army, said he was honored to attend the ceremony. The 90-year-old veteran fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

     The “Big Red One” was the first division to fight in the Vietnam War. Almost 2.6 million service members deployed during the Vietnam War, and more than 120 of those veterans attended the ceremony.

     They were welcomed with cheers and standing applause as they entered the hangar doors on a red carpet.

     Retired Lt. Col. Rich Crawford, a former signal officer in the 9th Signal Battalion, 9th Infantry Division, said he rode his motorcycle for a day and a half from Black Forest, Colorado, to the Kansas post to attend the division’s reunion in Kansas and be a part of the ceremony.

     Crawford said when he came home from Vietnam as a first lieutenant he was greeted with protest signs, but now he felt the welcome home he deserved.

     “This was great and we are so grateful that Fort Riley put this on for us,” Crawford said. “We were not expecting anything like this.”

     Some of the veterans came dressed in their uniforms.

     Retired Master Sgt. Carter Oliver, a former Big Red One Soldier at Fort Riley, came dressed in his Battle Dress Uniform, complete with his drill instructor’s hat.

     “This is what we needed; I loved it,” Oliver said of the event. “Now we are more appreciated. It was fitting, and it was done with a purpose. America now understands why we served and the reasoning behind it.”

 

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