In a packed gym at Menasha High School on a snowy, Saturday night, thousands from all across the area came out to welcome home 52 local veterans from the first-ever Old Glory Honor Flight to Vietnam.
“We rewrote the narrative of the Vietnam veterans’ homecoming,” said Scott Delsart, an Army veteran and board member for Old Glory Honor Flight.
For brothers Tom and Dale VanLanen, who are also Marines that served in Vietnam, the welcome home ceremony from their two-week trip was something that will always be remembered.
“Deep in my heart, I really appreciate all they did for us veterans coming back, for cheering us on like that,” said Tom VanLanen.
“I wish that the night would’ve lasted a few more hours,” said Dale VanLanen. “I loved it!”
The night included tears, hugs, salutes and handshakes. You could also hear the words “welcome home” being repeated over and over, as many of our Vietnam veterans never received a proper welcoming back to the U.S.
“Now i can talk about [the war] to other veterans, to my family members. There’s a certain amount of closure after so many years,” said Tom. “It never will never go away, but it does help relieve the pressure.”
“We had veterans come up to us and say ‘my life is now complete, I can finally sleep a full night in the first time in forever,'” Delsart added.
“If anybody was there and didn’t have a little tear in their eye, something was wrong,” said Dale. “It was just fantastic.”
The next Old Glory Honor Flight is scheduled for Washington D.C. on May 29th. It will be the organization’s 50th mission as they celebrate their 10th anniversary this year.