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Vietnam vets honored

City council member Susan Smith hugs a Vietnam War veteran during Saturday’s “welcome home” ceremony at Heritage Park.|Photo by Bub Gideons

City council member Susan Smith hugs a Vietnam War veteran during Saturday’s “welcome home” ceremony at Heritage Park.|Photo by Bub Gideons

Local Vietnam War veterans received a special “welcome home” Saturday, even though the war ended more than 40 years ago.

National Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Day is celebrated on March 29, the 41st anniversary of when the last U.S. troops left Vietnam. Saturday, several dozen veterans and their families and friends joined together in Atmore’s Heritage Park for a special ceremony sponsored by the Atmore Memorial Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post 7016.

Event organizers explained that Saturday’s ceremony was designed to honor Vietnam War veterans, who often did not receive a fitting welcome when they returned home after the controversial war.

Alabama VFW State Commander Val Obergon and State Rep. Alan Baker were among the speakers at the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, VFW Ladies Auxiliary members gave each veteran a gift and a hug.

Earlier in the day, members of the VFW Post 7016 held a special opening ceremony at the post headquarters.

Atmore Mayor Jim Staff read the proclamation announcing the day as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in Atmore, and veterans were treated to breakfast, cake and coffee. The post had planned to hold its annual car show that day, but the forecast of rain led for the event to be rescheduled on April 19.

“While our plans were dampened, we still wanted to honor those in attendance,” VFW Post Commander Billy Gates said.

A special cake and several smaller cupcakes, furnished by Linda Gates, were decorated with eagles, Huey helicopters, the Vietnam service ribbon and “buddy poppies.”