WESTFIELD – A ceremony was held over the weekend to pay tribute to veterans who served in the Vietnam War.
The Village of Westfield’s Volunteer Firemen’s Association hosted the event Saturday, with many veterans and their families in attendance.
The day marked 47-years since the fall of Saigon in 1975, which ended the conflict, though American troops had officially been withdrawn two-years prior.
Vietnam veterans from across western New York were honored with gifts from the community, and several speakers addressed the audience about the impacts the war had on the nation, and those on the front lines.
With the years since the Vietnam War growing by the day, and the health issues many soldiers suffered long after coming home, several individuals and families accepted gifts on behalf of veterans who have since passed away.
A message shared by organizers and speakers alike was the need to remember the thousands of Americans who never returned from deployment in southeast Asia, and were imprisoned or killed by North Vietnamese fighters.
During a time of growing disapproval of the war by much of the American public, and increased scrutiny in the media, many veterans never felt welcomed after the war. Chairman of the ceremony, Lyle Holland, expanded on this point.
“Especially for the Vietnam veterans, there were so many hard feelings after the Vietnam War, or during the Vietnam War. They didn’t get the respect they deserved, and they were actually criticized for doing their jobs,” Holland explained. “This is our way of telling them, you know what, you really were appreciated, and we’re really happy to have you in our community.”
Holland said that he was disappointed by the fact that they were unable to attract more veterans to be honored, as he assumed there were many others in the town who served in some capacity during the war.
In years past, the Westfield Fire Department also hosted ceremonies to honor those who served during other periods, including World War II and the Korean War.