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SHERIDAN — A handshake and a thank you is all Daniel George would have wanted on his return home from 13 months of service as an infantryman in Vietnam, but his homecoming was a little more disappointing.
“I was called names, spit on, and when I told my dad about it when I got back to my hometown, he said,
‘Well, yeah, rattlesnakes have more friends than you do,'” George said. “It was not a very popular war. You got to the point where you didn’t speak of it.”
George attended his first Wyoming Veterans Welcome Home ceremony Monday and said it was long overdue — but appreciated. He wiped tears from his eyes as he shared a handshake and a hug with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and other dignitaries following the ceremony.
Nearly 200 people packed the auditorium at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Sheridan to pay tribute to veterans of all wars, paying special attention to veterans of the Korean War and the Vietnam War who were overlooked or ridiculed at their homecoming.
The event was one of four to be held in Wyoming. It was the third annual celebration of Wyoming Veterans Welcome Home Day, which Mead designated to be March 30 of each year, representing the day the last soldiers returning from Vietnam would have set foot in their hometowns.
“Congratulations, Sheridan, on such a wonderful turnout for today,” Mead said to the gathering. “As I see it, and as I think the Legislature appropriately saw it, there can never be enough days or enough ways to say thank you to our veterans. So we seize upon this opportunity to make up for lost time and take another run at getting the homecoming celebration right.”
The Sheridan College brass quartet kicked off the ceremony with a rousing rendition of the “Service Anthem.”
“Paying tribute through music is another way of saying thank you to our service men and women,” director Michael Flynn said.
The Sheridan College Veterans Club Color Guard solemnly presented the flags, the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mead, Adjutant General of Wyoming Luke Reiner and Lee Alley, Vietnam veteran and vice chair of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, shared heartfelt remarks.
To top it all off, each veteran in attendance shared hugs, handshakes and tears in an emotional receiving line formed in their honor.
“The honor goes to the one who bleeds, who sweats, who buries his or her friends, who struggles and then who comes home,” Reiner said. “Today, those of you who have been in the arena, we honor you. We welcome you home. We say to you what might not have been said when you did come back: ‘Thank you, and welcome home.'”