Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans

“We never had a welcome home. This is it for us.” -Ray Saldana, Vietnam War veteran

In Spring 2015, I headed to Winchester, Indiana for the Welcome Home Parade for Vietnam Veterans. As the smiling veterans marched through the quaint streets and waved to the crowd, I saw an elderly man with a walker. The man, who wore a Vietnam Veteran hat, stood and saluted every veteran who walked by.  I had to speak with this man and approached him at the end of the Parade.  I met Ray and his proud wife Virginia. I told him I admired how he stood for every veteran who walked by and he expressed the sentiment that I’ve heard over and over from Vietnam Vets; “We never had a welcome home, this is it for us. In California, I was called a baby killer and spit on.”

As a squad leader with the 3rd division Marines, Ray was injured 4 times but kept fighting. He was captured near the Cambodian border and was thrown into a bamboo box, which was three by three feet wide. Ray was routinely urinated on while trapped in the box and tortured by his captors by getting his fingernails torn off. His only meals came when he could catch a rat. One night, Ray finally saw an opportunity to escape and had to kill his guard. 40 years later, Ray still feels bad about the incident but he had to do it to live. The war affected him for years and still does, but it wasn’t until he met Virginia that he started to feel more like himself again. She stands by his side and you could really sense how much they loved each other.

By the end of his story, everyone was in tears and then I asked him what he took away from the Vietnam War. Ray replied “I’m proud to be an American.”

Ray, with his wife Virginia, after an emotional day in Winchester, Indiana.
The Price of Freedom is Written on the Wall, Winchester, Indiana
Jim Thomas, from Mississippi, rode his motorcycle over 1,000 miles to receive a proper Welcome Home Parade in Brimfield, Ohio. He was gifted a hand knitted American flag blanket and the tears started to stream down his face. “I never thought I’d live to see this day.” Brimfield, Ohio September 2014
Mark starred in the Ohio Welcome Home Parade, as he waved from the Cleveland VA Bus and continually flashed the peace sign.
Mark starred in the Brimfield, Ohio Welcome Home Parade, as he waved from the Cleveland VA Bus and continually flashed the peace sign.
Carleton Brown served in the Vietnam War from 1970-1972 and also attended the Brimfield Parade, representing the VA.
A portrait of Dick Clough, a Vietnam War veteran and Gold Star recipient. He is an inspiring man who not only is a war hero, but also makes a difference to the Cleveland community. Over three decades ago, Clough founded the Tour of Good Cheer which has helped thousands of homeless families at Christmas with toys, clothes and other essentials.
Proudly displaying his Gold Star medal.

Walt is a proud Vietnam Veteran who gladly gave me a tour of his personal VA in Parma, Ohio.

Comments (3)

  1. Walt Tomon

    To be classified as a hero was never my intentions To be noticed as a true American was all I expected and to give my life if need be so my fellow Vet’s and Americanss back home could live free were my intentions God Bless America


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