By Lisa Salsman
For the Opelika Observer
A rainy evening did not dampen attendance at the East Alabama Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Ceremony. More than 300 veterans and their families quickly filled Auburn High School’s auditorium to capacity as Dr. Blake Busbin, the event organizer, welcomed the crowd.
Medal of Honor recipients, U.S. Army CSM Bennie Adkins and USMC Maj. Gen. James Livingston, reflected on their service in Vietnam. Themes of innocence, bravery and friendship were interwoven through their stories. They also shared remembrances of tough choices as they left Vietnam and the painful sadness over those who never returned.
Joseph Galloway, co-author of “We Were Soldiers Once …and Young,” gave the keynote address. As a journalist in Vietnam, he quickly learned to be more assertive to get through the right channels of communication. He witnessed the bravery and sacrifice of American soldiers firsthand. When he and Lt. Gen. Hal Moore spoke with a publisher about their book, the publisher was astonished that they did not have contracts protecting their individual interests.
They explained that the bonds of war were stronger than any other type of contract. Galloway concluded by offering the veterans a long-overdue “welcome home.”
The ceremony concluded with a recognition of all veterans. Each branch was acknowledged as they came to the stage to receive a certificate and a lapel pin. A special coin was also handed out, compliments of the Auburn Alumni Association. During the reception that followed, veterans and their families shared memories and browsed displays of Vietnam memorabilia, before heading back out into the rain.