Marine Corps and Vietnam veteran Bill Anderson walked slowly to the front of the First Baptist Church in Pembroke Saturday and accepted a certificate of honor for his contributions during the Southeast Asian war.
Long a war of controversy, the local ceremony marked the 50th anniversary of the United States’ beginning involvement in a war that would claim more than 1,500 Georgians’ lives before it officially ended in 1975.
The ceremony to honor local Vietnam veterans was hosted by Pembroke’s American Legion Post 164 and sponsored by the Georgia Department of Veterans Services and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
According to state Veterans Services Commissioner Mike Roby, it was the 260th ceremony across the state since March 2015 to honor Georgia’s Vietnam veterans.
Monroe was one of more than 30 local Vietnam War veterans who attended the ceremony and received certificates of honor, a Department of Defense pin and letter from Deal.
Some of the veterans strode slowly with the aid of canes to the front of the church while others walked briskly, but all were grateful for the recognition so long overdue.
"It was really touching. It was long overdue. I think the Vietnam veterans are finally getting the respect they deserve," Monroe said.
The 90-minute ceremony was capped by words of respect from Roby, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, D-Ga. 1st, representatives from American Legion Post 164, and others. For Monroe the gathering of fellow Vietnam veterans was the highlight.
"It was good to see them gathered together to be honored," the Marine Corps veteran said.
"This is a chance to honor those who served during the war. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice and those who returned home. Thank you for your service," said Brian Zeringue, public information director for the state department of veterans services.
"It’s because of you that we enjoy the freedoms and rights we have today. I love the week of July 4. It represents, in part, the sacrifices our forefathers made. Our forefathers sacrificed and committed to giving us the rights we enjoy today. Through the years, our veterans have fought for those rights just like our Vietnam veterans fought for our rights. We didn’t always thank the veterans from Vietnam like we should have. They never really did get the welcome home they should have gotten. We recognize that now. It’s never to late to say thank you. It’s not to late now and that’s why we’re here. To say thank you," Carter said.
A proclamation signed by Deal and Roby said, in part, "It is imperative that we remember and appreciate these Georgians with grateful hearts for the contributions and sacrifices while wearing the uniform of the United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War."
"It’s an honor to be here," American Legion Post 164 Senior Vice Commander Marvin Miller said during the ceremony that was marked with patriotic music, service anthems and words of appreciation and gratitude for a job well done.