SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Vietnam War veterans were recognized and honored at the Utah State Capitol on Wednesday during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
The memorial, organized by the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs and Vietnam Veterans of America, was an opportunity to show gratitude and appreciation to those who have served the United States.
“It’s just so nice to be recognized as combat veterans coming back from Vietnam because that recognition was not there when we came back,” said James Sheppard, a U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran, who attended the ceremony.
Sheppard recalled the brotherhood he and his crews had back in Vietnam.
“No matter what, everybody had each other’s back,” he said. “We’ve done so much for so long, for so little.”
Another attendee, Richard Lawrence Gelinog, was drafted into the Vietnam War as a U.S. Marine in 1969.
“I chose to be a marine because my older brother was a marine,” Gelinog said.
He had survivor’s guilt when he made it back because some of his friends did not. It’s a hard thing for him to articulate, but Gelinog acknowledged how the general public did not have a positive perception of the veterans when they first came back from the war.
Antiwar protests took place all around the country at the time, with the most prominent one reaching about 100,000 protesters at the Lincoln Memorial, according to the History Channel.
“People didn’t like us because we went [to the war],” Gelinog said. “But I respect [the protesters] because, without them, we might never get out of there.”
In addition to the ceremony, Gov. Spencer Cox has announced Wednesday to be Vietnam War Veterans Day in Utah. On this day, Cox encourages community members to remember the 28,000 Utahns who served in the war and the estimated 45,000 Vietnam veterans living in Utah today.
“I would do it in a heartbeat again,” Sheppard said.