LAYTON — Spectators held signs that read, “We love our veterans” and “Thank you,” in an attempt to provide an overdue welcome home to Vietnam veterans.
The spectators waited patiently along Wasatch Drive leading up to Layton Commons Park on the bright Saturday morning for the Sounds of Freedom parade to begin.
Dennis Kramer served in Vietnam in 1968-69 in the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade. He came from Hooper to support the event.
“I think it’s excellent,” Kramer said. “I think it’s long overdue. All veterans need recognition. It was a terrible thing. When they got home, they were all quiet. It was almost embarrassing to talk about it because of the negativity. Now it’s OK to talk about it. I think it’s good therapy for everyone.”
“It’s great to see everybody out. Young people, old people — people in wheelchairs went out of their way to see this.”
Organizers described the June 13 event as “The Day They Deserve,” which included the parade, a car show, vendors, speeches, flag ceremonies, a 5K run and a concert.
Although it was a free event, organizers accepted donations to fund the construction of a Vietnam Wall replica in Layton.
Veterans’ groups and military supporters marched up the street leading to the park handing out candy and mini American flags for the spectators to wave.
As many of the veterans participating in the parade are now at an advanced age, many sat atop flatbed trailers, thanking the spectators for coming out to support.
Roger McDermott, from Syracuse, was also among the spectators. The Army drafted McDermott shortly after he returned from his church mission. He served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.
“I feel like it is important to be patriotic,” McDermott said. “I was drafted and accepted to college. I was drafted and went where they sent me. This is probably where I ought to be today.”
Overall, he said he had mixed feelings about the event.
“I came back from ’Nam,” McDermott said. “I decided if I never left the U.S. again, that would be plenty too soon for me.”
Northern Utah and State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America and Branch 185 of the Fleet Reserve Association organized the event.
Farmington resident and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Jay Hess also took time to watch the parade.
He observed from under the shade of a tree before a ceremony where he was to receive a silver-toned POW bracelet.
Yvonne Bauder flew in from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to present the bracelet she wore while Hess was being held as a prisoner of war in Hanoi after his plane was shot down in 1967.
“It’s a lot of work and it’s a beautiful day and a lot of people are participating,” Hess said, “it’s a good thing. It’s a united community to make things like this happen. We all have a million things to do. It is a real community effort.”
Layton residents Hanah and Bryce Catmull brought their young daughters to the event. They felt it was important to teach their children about their country, the flag and those who served.
“That there’s more than just themselves,” Bryce said.
After the recent funeral of Bryce’s grandfather, the girls had questions about the veterans who came to pay their respects. Through Saturday’s event, their children could learn about paying respect to veterans.
“I think it’s important that there’s people that mean something to other people who go and protect us,” Hanah said.
Bringing up the rear of the parade was a rally of motorcycles, the rumble of their engines signaling the next phase of the event.
Each Vietnam veteran has his or her own stories about the people they served with in their respective branches of military and individual units, but Saturday’s event help tie them together.
“It ties a whole bunch of veterans together: individuals, Purple Hearts,” Hess said. “Just to get all those individuals together at one time, that’s just a neat thing.”