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Fort Sill Honors Vietnam Veterans with Welcome Home Ceremony

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FORT SILL Okla_ It was a well deserved, long overdue welcome home ceremony. People of all ages and backgrounds lined the streets of Fort Sill Friday to show the appreciation over 500 Vietnam veterans never got some 40 years ago.

As the buses made their way closer to the Rinehart Fitness Center, throngs of active duty soldiers cheered and saluted their fellow service members. It was music to their ears. The crowd was so big, there was only standing room available inside the fitness center. Everyone was there for a welcome home ceremony years in the making.

During the national anthem, the veterans had a look of pride in their eyes. So did onlookers and soldiers who have followed in their footsteps. Fort sill Commander Major General Mark McDonald recognizes this bond and took the time to thank the veterans for all they have taught men and women like him.

Bob Stewart is one of the Vietnam veterans honored at Friday's ceremony. He and his wife of almost 53 years, Pat, were in awe of the ceremony.

"It was great," Pat said. "It was outstanding."

He said it's also hard to take away the feeling of coming home to unappreciative Americans, being a villain instead of a hero.

"It'd been just as nice if somebody had come up when we'd come back and said, ‘Thank you,'" Bob said.

Stewart served our country for over 20 years and was deployed twice to Vietnam. While it's hard for him to talk about his experience, his wife is open to sharing hers. She said those times were trying. She had to raise their children on her own. She waited eagerly for a sign that he was alive and well.

"It took forever for us to get a letter to communicate back and forth," Pat said.

Not only have the lines of communication changed with the time, Bob Stewart said, so have the people.

"That was a different United States back then," Bob said.

His wife couldn't agree more. She wasn't only moved by the ceremony, but by the kindness of a new generation.

"Young kids that I know don't make very much money," Bob said, "But they reach in their pocket and they pay our meal."

It's a gesture that simply says "Thank you for your service."

Pat Stewart said her favorite part of the day was when she saw a young boy in the arms of his mother, saluting them as they drove by.

There's another ceremony for the veterans tomorrow at 11:00 AM at McMahon Auditorium. General Gordon Sullivan, Former Chief of Staff of the Army, and a Vietnam vet, will be the featured speaker.

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