MVC, Missouri legislators host Vietnam War commemoration, ‘welcome home’ ceremony for veterans in Capitol rotunda

By: 
Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

“It is my pleasure to be here today to welcome you home,” Missouri State Capitol officials said during the invocation at a 50th anniversary Commemoration Ceremony of the Vietnam War on Thursday.

Gov. Mike Parson and other officials addressed an estimated 300 veterans and 400 to 500 visitors total at the ceremony that was dubbed a welcome home. The event was hosted by the Missouri Veterans Commission, and the Missouri General Assembly.

“Missouri and our great nation owe a great debt to the brave men and women who served our country in the armed forces during the Vietnam War, protecting our rights, freedoms, and our ideals,” Parson said. “It was a tremendous honor to have the privilege of speaking to this distinguished group of Vietnam veterans and discuss the importance of passing down to the next generation the values of duty, sacrifice, patriotism, and love of our country these heroes have shown to all of us.”

Several of the veterans in attendance said they were there to honor their friends or brothers who fell in combat. One such veteran with a family connection to Owensville said he didn’t wish to be named, but he was there for two friends and his brother-in-law.

“It was unpopular to have served in the war,” the veteran remembered. “I didn’t tell anyone I was in it for almost 35 years.”

For many, the ceremony was personal. 

Four former servicemen from Centralia, also members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 6276, said they had been to similar services, but not in the State Capitol building. Steve Gordan, Ed Torreyson, Bill Reed, and Ken Marcum said they hadn’t know what to expect of the ceremony.

“It was an actual welcome home from our own state which we never got,” said Gordan, who served from 1968-69.

Torreyson said he hadn’t been sure what to expect of the ceremony.

“It’s been a great day at the Capitol,” said the Silver Star recipient who also served from 1968-69.

Reed agreed it was the event he hadn’t had all those years ago.

“When I came home, I couldn’t wear my uniform,” Reed said. “Today makes up for that. I really appreciate something like this.”

For others, the emotional cost of the day seemed to loom, but they went anyway. Marcum said that he was glad he decided to attend.

“It was wonderful,” the 1966-67 veteran said. “I hesitated to come and now I am glad I did.”

Following Parson’s address to the group, current servicemen and government representatives helped to press a pin to the label or shirt color of each veteran at the ceremony. 

According to Parson’s speech, approximately 7,000 airmen, sailors, marines and other soldiers with connections to Missouri separate from their military posts each year, but the majority does not choose to live within the state. Parson, a former Army serviceman, told fellow legislatures that they needed to offer a more tailored service to veterans.

Last week, Parson began sending personal letters to service members in the process of leaving the military at Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base, as well as veterans separated from service outside Missouri.

The letters encourage service members to connect with a large range of workforce services, and employees including a strategy to assign a single point of contact within the state to provide personalized assistance in identifying available jobs, education, training opportunities, and other supportive services offered by the state.

It also provides  personalized assistance in identifying available jobs, education, training opportunities, and other supportive services offered by the state. The strategy also involves coordinating an effective case management and follow-up procedure for those who respond to the letters.

“We know those who are planning to leave the military are busy with their jobs and may not be able to visit one of our offices to access workforce programs. My goal is to make Missouri the best state in the nation for veterans to live and work by better connecting them with great employment opportunities and resources we have available,” Parson said.

The governor plans to continue sending the letters out over the next couple of weeks.