GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Vietnam War was arguably the most unpopular military undertaking in United States history. As a result, many Vietnam veterans feel that they never received the recognition …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Vietnam War was arguably the most unpopular military undertaking in United States history. As a result, many Vietnam veterans feel that they never received the recognition they deserved when they returned from serving.
One Clay County man is doing his best to get himself and his fellow Vietnam veterans that long-overdue recognition.
On March 27 at 10 a.m. at the TAPS Monument in Green Cove Springs, Chapter 1059 of the Vietnam Veterans of America will hold its third annual Vietnam Veterans Recognition Ceremony.
The practice began in 2018, and has been held annually, with the exception of last year for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aaron “Gary” Newman is a 20-year retired U.S. Navy veteran as a Master-At-Arms Chief Petty Officer. He served two tours in Vietnam in the 1960s.
“It’s [the ceremony] the recognition we never received when we came home,” said Newman. “It’s a huge sticking point with Vietnam veterans. For several years we’ve come to recognize each other and when we see a fellow Vietnam vet, we greet each other with ‘Welcome Home.’”
Now, instead of local veterans welcoming each other home, they are now in partnership with the local community to help that happen. The board of county commissioners and other politicians are helping to make it happen.
The Vietnam Veterans Recognition day committee was started with a cross-section of local business leaders, citizens, citizens and our local politicians.
“We have a tremendous amount of support from our county leaders for Veteran’s issues so it was no problem whatsoever to get their backing, so as soon as we got them on board, I just reached out to the community and brought in a small committee,” Newman said.
Newman has been happy with the turnout in previous years. He said there have been as many as 180 people at the event.
“This year we expect the same,” he said. “We’ve had a positive response.”
Northeast Florida is primarily a Navy area, with many active duty and retired Sailors living here, but previous events have seen a cross-section of veterans from across the armed services.
“It’s a cross section of all branches of service. And it’s not just strictly for Vietnam veterans,” Newman said. “We try to encourage any veterans to come and celebrate with us. We try to get the other veterans organizations involved.”
Newman is proud of his service and that of all others who did their duty.
“Vietnam veterans, come and celebrate with us; this is your day,” he said.
The guest speaker will be Ret. U.S. Air Force Colonel William G. Byrns, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam.