A large group of organizers have worked nearly all year to put together the Eastside Veterans Day Ceremony — to celebrate veterans who served in all branches of the military.
The public is invited to pay tribute to veterans at the Sunset Hills Memorial Park on Monday, Nov. 11. The celebration starts at 11 a.m. and is anticipated to last an hour.
Multiple organizations will host the event, including the Sons of the American Revolution, The Association of Washington Generals, American Legion Post #161 and VFW Post #2995.
The event also aims to rectify the poor treatment Vietnam veterans faced when they returned home. It could be hard for someone to imagine a time when active military came home to anything but celebration and gratitude. Gregory Lucas can.
Lucas, who assembled the Committee to Honor American Veterans in 2016, said that those flying home during the Vietnam War, a highly controversial conflict that spanned the years of 1955 to 1975, were treated unfairly.
“As vets came home … vets were not only not honored but aggressively shunned,” he said.
He pointed out that the Vietnam Wall is the only memorial in Washington D.C. hidden below ground. He said vets viewed the location as a slight against them and those who served.
“Consider the fact that freedom is purchased and the price is all of our price to pay,” he said. “The ones who pay that price are the military … There is nothing that we can do that would be too great an honor to give them. They deserve our best, and the Vietnam veterans did not receive it.”
Those behind this year’s ceremony are hoping to make things right.
Vietnam-era veterans and the widows and mothers of deceased Vietnam veterans will receive commemorative lapel pins, provided by the Department of Defense in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
They’ll be provided with the pins, along with the words “welcome home.”
“For many of these vets, it’ll be the first time anyone has ever welcomed them home,” Lucas said.
Other highlights include Eastside resident and Air Force Maj. Joe Crecca, who was a prisoner of war for more than six years in the Hanoi Hilton prisoner of war camp. He will receive the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution) Bronze Good Citizenship Medal.
Guests should anticipate a moving ceremony, Lucas said. Scouts will place more than 2,900 American flags and 1,000 red poppies on the graves of veterans buried in the cemetery. And there will be a number of special guests.
In addition, the ceremony also will call attention to the sacrifices of veterans who landed at Normandy on D-Day in WWII, as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.