May is Military Appreciation Month, and with Memorial Day right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to thank and honor all the men and women who have served our country.
Many of Gilchrist’s patients have served in the military, and Gilchrist is dedicated to meeting their unique needs at the end of life. Gilchrist is also proud to host a special celebration for veterans in our community each year with our Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Celebration.
At this year’s second annual celebration on March 30, Gilchrist hosted over 900 people. Attendees joined together to make things right by finally giving Vietnam veterans a long overdue welcome home as we do now for all returning troops.
To kick off the event, our guests learned about resources to support veterans and their families, and reminisced about their days in Vietnam with a photo montage of fellow veterans during the war, set to songs from the era, like “We Gotta Get Out of This place.” The comradery between fellow veterans was palpable, with active duty military, future military and Young Marines mingling and filling the air with friendship and belonging.
Our audience enjoyed dynamic Vietnam veteran speakers, including Diane Carlson Evans, a Vietnam veteran nurse who founded the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Guy Gruters, a prisoner of war in Hanoi Hilton, shared the lessons he learned of resiliency, strength and forgiveness from the horrors of prison. And we heard from Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland’s 62nd governor, who signed his first piece of legislation designating March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in Maryland.
During the program, CSM Uribe-Huitron of Aberdeen Proving Ground led over 100 members of the military in three salutes. They included soldiers from Aberdeen Proving Ground, midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy and Marines from the Marine Barracks, as well as Young Marines. During the most moving salute, “Taps” played to honor the Vietnam veterans no longer with us. The veterans in the room shouted out the names of the fallen or said them silently to themselves. It was a powerful way to honor and remember their brothers and sisters who had gone before them.
At the end of the program, Wayne Miller—a Vietnam veteran whose leg was amputated from a blast in Vietnam—stood up and sang “God Bless the USA.” As a grateful community, we were there to not only welcome home the Vietnam veterans but to hold space for them to rejoice, to cry, to share their suffering, and to celebrate.
Many veterans told me that they will never get tired of being welcomed home. With the community’s help, we put on an extraordinary Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day event—a day of celebration, a day of honor, and a day of healing.
We look forward to once again welcoming home Vietnam veterans next year. If you are interested in attending next year’s Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day celebration on March 30, 2020, please visit our event page: https://gilchristcares.org/welcome-home-celebration/
Watch a video from our 2019 Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Celebration: https://vimeo.com/gilchristcares/2019whvv