Vietnam Vets Invited to Attend Tribute Event in Missouri
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 31, 2005 An army of Vietnam War-era veterans is expected to march into Branson, Mo., and the surrounding area to attend June 13-19 tributes and celebrations of their military service, according to event promoters.
The corporate and privately sponsored event marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the war, said Paul Wannenmacher, a Springfield, Mo., entrepreneur involved in publicizing "Welcome Home America: America's Tribute to Vietnam Veterans." The Vietnam War was fought from 1962 to 1975.
"It's time that we gave honor to the Vietnam veteran who served bravely," Wannenmacher said. Due to the socio-political events prevalent during the war, he recalled, much of the American populace scorned Vietnam veterans when they returned home from Southeast Asia.
The Branson festivities, Wannemacher noted, will include a parade, military reunions, award ceremonies, a golf outing, a fishing tournament, vintage-aircraft displays, and concert performances featuring artists like the Beach Boys, the Fifth Dimension, the Doobie Brothers, the Supremes with Mary Wilson, the Oak Ridge Boys, Tony Orlando, Les Brown, Jr., and famous actress-singer-dancer Ann-Margret.
Veterans Affairs Secretary R. James Nicholson, an Army Vietnam veteran, and former U.S. Air Force radio deejay Adrian Cronauer, who originated the phrase "Good morning, Vietnam!" also are slated to attend the event, according to Wannenmacher.
A $100 per adult registration fee and a $50 fee for each child 13-17 years of age, Wannenmacher said, enables event-goers to access arranged transportation to attend major event venues.
However, "if you choose not to pay the registration fee, certainly all the other activities are open to you at no charge," Wannenmacher pointed out.
Gary Linderer, 58, a former Army combat veteran who fought in Vietnam, noted that the Branson tribute also features simulated Vietnam-era battle engagements performed by re-enactor units representing both friendly and enemy forces.
Some U.S. military veterans recently returned from operations in Iraq also are expected to attend the event as honored guests, Linderer noted. "We'll make sure these kids don't get treated the way we got treated when we came home," he said.
A big purpose of the homecoming event, Linderer explained, "is to promote healing" of surviving Vietnam veterans and to recognize their sacrifice and service to their country.
Branson "is a great place to honor veterans," Wannenmacher pointed out, noting its residents celebrate military veterans' service "24 hours a day," on a yearlong basis.
"It's a veteran-friendly community," he said.