In honor of National Vietnam Veterans Day and the people who served and suffered in the war that polarized Americans in the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, Bethesda Hospice Care recently hosted a recognition celebration.

“At Bethesda, we love our Veterans and want to honor them in any way we can,” said

Leslie Schaeffer, Outreach Coordinator for Bethesda Hospice Care. “Vietnam Veterans never really got the “welcome home” they deserved after their service, so we want to give them the recognition they earned 50 years ago now.”

Welcoming Home Vietnam Veterans

About 50 people attended a Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home party, which was held at Bethesda Barclay House in Clayton, Mo. There, 23 men who served in the war were presented with commemorative lapel pins. Leslie said she hopes the event will become an annual occurrence.

“Bethesda Hospice Care currently has achieved Level 4 in the ‘We Honor Veterans” program through the National Palliative and Hospice Care Association,” Leslie says. “That program provides us the best practices in terms of education and training to be able to identify the unique needs of our Veteran patients. We’re continuously trying to acknowledge our Veterans for the service they provided and to thank them as much as possible. It’s never too late to give them a warm welcome home.”

Nick Ohlman, a Vietnam War veteran and a Bethesda Hospice Care Veteran volunteer, said the gesture was greatly appreciated by the Veterans in attendance.

“I really thought the event was well done,” Nick said. “Those of us who served in the Vietnam War came home all those years ago, and no one patted us on the back or said ‘welcome home.’ We went and served our country, just like our fathers and grandfathers did in World War I, World War II, and Korea. But even Veterans of those wars treated us differently. It really hurt, and I think, in addition to the terrible things they saw and endured during the war, they’ve been carrying around that pain for all of these years.”

In addition to the pinning ceremony, Veterans and guests were served a complimentary buffet-style breakfast with all the fixings.

Guest speakers included Angela Sipe, Executive Director of Opus Peace, who discussed “Soul Injury” and the physical and emotional trauma that Vietnam veterans have had to deal with over the years, and Gary Moore from the St. Louis Veterans Administration Office.

At the end of the event, some of the Veterans in attendance told Leslie with tears in their eyes that it was the first time anyone told them welcome home after the war.

“If we’re able to take away some of their pain by showing them our appreciation for what they did for our country, we’re glad to do that,” Leslie said.

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