Verde Valley pays tribute to Vietnam Veterans Saturday

Ceremony set Saturday at Cottonwood Kids Park

A banner for the sixth annual Verde Valley Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, planned for April 1, hangs at the Cottonwood Kids Park. (VVN/Jennifer Kucich)

A banner for the sixth annual Verde Valley Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, planned for April 1, hangs at the Cottonwood Kids Park. (VVN/Jennifer Kucich)

COTTONWOOD – The sixth annual Verde Valley Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day is planned for April 1 at the Cottonwood Kids Park, located at 321 South 12th Street near the Verde Valley Fairgrounds.

“Vietnam Veterans returned home to a country that failed to differentiate between the war and the troops who served. More than 50 years later, the cities and towns of Sedona and Verde Valley collaborate every year with Veterans groups to host a Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day event,” stated a City of Cottonwood news release.

Ride of Honor

The ceremony will include a Ride of Honor for Vietnam. Staging and a bike blessing given by the Rev. Randy Strickland are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Sedona Posse Grounds Park, with kickstands up at 11:10 a.m. The ride ends at the Cottonwood Kids Park. For information about the motorcycle ride contact John of American Legion Riders Post 93 at 928-300-9829.

Entertainment and food

Entertainment begins at noon with local band The MODS. During the 1 p.m. ceremony, musician Shawn Michael Perry will sing his hit song, Brother in Arms, stated the release. Local mayors will speak, and Josh Prout will play bagpipes during the closing ceremony. A color guard made up of all Veterans’ service organizations in the Verde Valley will present the U.S. Flag and service flags. All Veterans will receive a commemorative pin.

“Thanks to the generous donations of local businesses and organizations, hamburgers, hot dogs and fixings will be served starting at 12:30 p.m. with no charge to Veterans or the public,” stated the release.

Supporting the event

The committee is accepting donations for Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans day via PayPal at http://www.communitycountsaz.org. Click on the Vietnam Veterans’ tab, or mail donations to Community Counts WHVVD Fund, c/o Merilee Fowler, MATForce, 8056 E. Valley Rd., Suite B, Prescott Valley, AZ 86314. Community Counts is a non-profit 501c3 organization.

If you go:

What: The sixth annual Verde Valley Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day

When: Aprilil 1. Staging and bike blessing at 10:30 a.m.; kickstands up at 11:10 a.m.; entertainment at noon; food served at 12:30 p.m.; ceremony with mayors speaking at 1 p.m.

Where: The Cottonwood Kids Park, located at 321 South 12th Street, near the Verde Valley Fairgrounds

How much: Free

More info: http://www.communitycountsaz.org, or contact coordinator Diane Joens at 928-634-4112 or dianejoens@gmail.com.

‘What does the event mean to you?’

Ronald Luce,

VFW member:

“As a Vietnam veteran myself, I have a special kinship with my brothers and sisters who served during that time. Over the years, I have spoken with many of these veterans about the vile treatment many of them experienced upon return to their homeland. I have seen and heard the bitterness many still harbor toward the country in general. I feel we need to heal this in any way possible, and the support and welcoming put forth by the communities in the Verde Valley have made great strides toward this healing. We still have a long way to go, but progress is noticeable, but unfinished.”

Kyla Allen, Council

Member for the

City of Cottonwood:

“This commemoration has special significance to me as I’m sure it has to many others whose families were affected not only by the horrors of the war itself but by the conflict upon their return home as well. To those who served during that time I say Welcome Home! Your sacrifices then and now are recognized and appreciated, and will never ever be forgotten.” 

Eduard Uzumeckis,

PhD., Vietnam Veteran:

“We carry with us the memories, scars, and wounds of battles fought and friends lost. We also carry the taunts and accusations of our nation locked in bitter disagreement over the legitimacy of the war from which we were returning. Through it all we persevered; we got on with our lives the best we could and contributed to our country, our community, and our families wherever we were able. All the time without ever receiving gratitude for our sacrifices and service from the country we served, without hearing the words Welcome Home!

On this day we finally get to hear the words Welcome home! Welcome home. Two words that in their simplicity contain the power to heal a wounded soul torn asunder by the ferocity of war and military experience. This celebration is a day of healing, and a chance for all Vietnam Veterans to experience the embrace of compassion, esteem, and peace contained in the words Welcome Home!”

Steve Gesell, Cottonwood

Police Chief

“I can’t imagine what it would have been serve in combat and return to the environment many soldiers experienced during the Vietnam war. My father served two tours as an Army aviator, voluntarily leaving his young wife and two very young sons to serve our county; a sacrifice many brave Americans made. It’s fantastic our community remembers and honors those that answered the call on behalf of our country.”

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