After more than 50 years, local Vietnam veterans will receive a proper welcome home.
Humana, a health insurance company and commemorative partner of the Vietnam War Commemoration, will host a pinning ceremony from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Federal Way Senior Center.
“To this day, there are veterans who have never been thanked for their service or officially welcomed home,” said Darin Davis, regional veterans executive for Humana who also serves in an Army National Guard line unit with the 39th Infantry Brigade out of Arkansas. “It’s something that’s long overdue. It’s bringing closure for them.”
This is the first Vietnam War Commemoration (VWC) event that Humana has hosted in Washington.
The pinning ceremony is open to all veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, regardless of their location.
“When these veterans returned home from Vietnam, they were not welcomed back in the same way we welcome home other veterans today or veterans from the Korean War or World War II,” Davis said.
Davis said service members are generally the first to shy away from public appreciation, although the honor of their valor is well-deserved.
“To go through what some of these people went through during the war, and come home to a country who acted like they didn’t appreciate what they’ve done or were ashamed to ask them about it,” he said. “Now 50 years later, it’s time to rectify that. I think it’s a very old wound that needs to be healed.”
At the ceremony, veterans will receive a bronze lapel pin, commissioned by the Department of Defense. An embossed eagle graces the front of the lapel pin, as the back reads “A grateful nation thanks and honors you.”
“We don’t want to just hand these out,” Davis said. “We want it to be special, so we like for each person to come up individually so the presenter can have a short conversation with the veteran.”
This powerful one-on-one connection is a chance for the presenter or pinner to give heartfelt thanks to the veteran, and often begins a chain reaction of emotion.
“It always ends with nearly everybody in the room with tears in their eyes. It’s a very moving experience for everybody involved,” Davis said. “Tears are usually a big part of this event.”
After the pinnings, several organizations and programs to benefit veterans will be available to offer information and resources.
If you go
The Vietnam Veterans Pinning Ceremony will be held 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Federal Way Senior Center, 4016 S. 352nd St., Auburn.
Vietnam veterans who would like to participate in the pinning ceremony are encouraged to RSVP at 800-781-4203 (TTY: 711) to ensure there are enough pins available. This event is open for the public to attend.