Iowa City VA honors Vietnam veterans with ceremony

Bryan Clark, the Iowa City VA Health Care System Public Affairs Officer, addresses a room of Vietnam War veterans at a commemoration ceremony.

The Vietnam War may have ended more than four decades ago, but many of those who served will never forget the battles, the war, their service and sacrifice.

Neither will the leaders of the Iowa City VA Health Care System, hosting a commemoration ceremony to recognize Vietnam veterans for their willingness to defend the country, despite the backlash from anti-war protesters.

The event precedes, and is building toward, the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, after the Fall of Saigon in late April 1975.

Many Americans troops who returned home from Vietnam faced protests and were subjected to poor treatment.

"They didn't get treated very good when they landed in the United States," recalled August Kerres, a Korean War veteran who described the reception as unfair. "Some people would spit on them. That wasn't right."

Larry Axtell, who served in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1972 as a tank commander in the United States Army, remembered the anti-war sentiments creating a hostile environment for troops.

"There was a lot of hate, a lot of protesters," said Axtell. "Calling us baby killers, spit on us, threw urine at us."

The reception added another layer to an already difficult war, but soldiers, sailors, and airmen alike said recognition events play a substantial role in healing the wounds of war.

Some of those who served were so touched by the ceremony, they were moved to tears.

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