EASTON — It’s a day to commemorate the sacrifices of Vietnam veterans and their families, and to recognize the men and women who were denied a proper welcome upon returning more than 40 years ago.

In 1974, President Richard Nixon declared a special Veterans Day for Vietnam veterans; it coincided with the one-year anniversary of the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Vietnam on March 29, 1973. Over the years, the day has been observed on March 29 or 30.

Local Vietnam vets gathered in the Easton High School cafeteria on Saturday, March 30, and were treated to ceremony, prayers, music, remembrances, a Roundtable Ceremony and a pinning ceremony followed by a buffet of food prepared by the school’s culinary arts class.

The room was packed with more than 100 people — veterans, their families and friends.

Figuring prominently in the crowd was a large contingent of motorcyclists from the Hogs and Heroes Foundation who rode their bikes to the event in Saturday’s pleasant weather.

Scores of shiny motorcycles surrounded Easton High School and some spaces in the parking lot.

There were speeches by Vietnam veterans U.S. Army Sgt. Donna Dear and VFW Post 5118 Sr. Vice Commander Gene Feher, and a keynote address by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins.

A solemn Roundtable Ceremony performed by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 648 left a hush in the room. Many struggled with their emotions as they recalled their days in Southeast Asia.

Veterans in the room who had not received a Vietnam Veterans pin were invited to do so. Nearly 30 men and women stood up. Bagpiper Randy Welch played favorites as the veterans were being pinned.

Vietnam veteran Ed Hoffman played a perfect “taps” on the bugle to end the ceremony. Hoffman was a Navy fireman 3rd class who ended up serving on land in the woods and rice paddies of Southeast Asia.

The event was supported and organized by Coastal Hospice, Compass Regional Hospice and Talbot Hospice.

Coastal Hospice & Palliative Care Executive Director Alane Capen, Compass Regional Hospice Director of Mission Advancement Leah Reynolds and Talbot Hospice Executive Director Vivian Dodge gave remarks.

The Easton High School Navy JROTC Color Guard presented the flags and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Rev. James Nash of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Parish gave the invocation.

Pianist Jim Upton accompanied his wife, soprano Susan Upton, in entertaining the crowd with the National Anthem, Armed Forces Medley and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”

Sponsors for the event included the American Legion Jeff Davis Post 18 and Talbot Post 70; Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 648; Mid-Shore Recovering Veterans Group; Easton Rotary Youth & Community Fund; Starbucks; and APG Media of Chesapeake, which publishes this paper.

Follow me on Twitter @chrisp_stardem. Email me at cpolk@stardem.com.

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