Largest, free public event in NC to honor Vietnam vets
Posted December 15, 2011
Concord, N.C. — As the war in Iraq comes to a close, plans are underway to honor veterans of an earlier conflict who never got a proper homecoming. An event planned for March is expected to be the largest, free public event in North Carolina history.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway was the backdrop Thursday as officials announced the Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration, which will be held March 31 and hosted by the USO and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters.
It will be a day of concerts, military salutes, fireworks and views of Vietnam through the lens of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Kennerly.
He won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for his previous year’s work that included photos of the Vietnam, Cambodia and India-Pakistan wars.
“Our job as photographers is to shoot the good, the bad and the ugly, and I’ve seen all three. A good photographer finds the meaning of a situation and records it for the rest of the world,” Kennerly said.
Kennerly also plans to have a traveling exhibit of his photo collection going around the state leading up to the event “to educate people about the sacrifice of Vietnam veterans and get people to come here,” said Lt. Col. John Falkenbury (Ret.), president and COO of USO of North Carolina.
Air Force Col. Quincy Collins (Ret.) was a prisoner of war for more than seven years in Vietnam.
“If you look at the two weeks before I came home, (they threw) tomatoes at veterans coming back, not giving them jobs. There was a stigma attached to being a Vietnam veteran,” he said.
Collins says his “good spiritual base” helped him get through the tough times.
“You’ve got to be brought up by a mom and dad who showed you what love was,” he said.
Now, North Carolina wants to show those warriors that same love.
Among the other features at the one-day event will be a wreath-laying ceremony, displays, demonstrations and information booths for veterans to learn about services and benefits. Organizers say the celebration has been in the works even before Fayetteville's 10-day Heroes Homecoming tribute last month.
People can reserve free tickets online or by calling 1-800-455-FANS (3267). WRAL-TV and WRAL.com will carry some of the celebration live in Raleigh on the afternoon of March 31.