Veterans officials organize Vietnam parade in Layton

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LAYTON — Some 40 years after they returned home, Northern Utah Vietnam veterans will finally get the “welcome home” they’ve been waiting for.

The first ever “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Parade” will be at 9 a.m. June 13 in Layton as part of the city’s annual Sounds of Freedom program, which this year will center around Vietnam veterans. 

The parade is being organized by members of the Northern Utah chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America and Fleet Reserve Association and will run along Gentile Street and Fort Lane before dissolving at Layton Commons Park, where flag ceremonies, speeches and an evening concert will be held.

Dennis Howland, president of the Utah VVA and chief organizer of the parade, said all veterans organizations, military units and any other community organizations or people are welcome to join the parade. He said non-combat Vietnam-era veterans are also encouraged to participate, as well as the family members of Vietnam veterans who have died.

“The only requirement is a sincere desire to welcome home a generation of veterans and show the appreciation for their service to our country that they never received when they came home,” Howland said. 

Howland said he’s been in touch with veterans from Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado and Iowa who are planning on attending the parade.

As a Marine sergeant who served in Vietnam, Howland said soldiers who came home from Vietnam in the early 1970s were often mocked, taunted and alienated by their fellow Americans.

“There weren’t any parades or celebrations,” he said. “The Vietnam War was the most divisive in U.S. history besides the Civil War, and many vets returned home to public scorn and resentment. None of them were given a ticker tape parade, and most of them returned home where their commanding officers told them to keep their service to their country confidential to avoid public confrontation.

“This (parade) is a long-overdue ‘Welcome home,’ ” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 28,000 Utahns served in Vietnam and more than 50,000 Vietnam veterans call Utah home today.

Anyone interested in helping with the parade should contact Howland at 801-389-1893 or by email at dennishowland@msn.com. Entry information for the parade can be found at www.sofshow.com.

The 4th annual Sounds of Freedom event is being organized by Layton business owner L.T. Weese and is expected to attract more than 15,000 people.