School, students honor service members of Vietnam, Korean wars

FORTVILLE — Every year, Jennifer Roland’s father visits her U.S. history class to share with students what he remembers from his service in Vietnam.

When they talk about his homecoming, Roland’s students struggle to understand the cold reception many vets received when returning from an unpopular war. Community gatherings and large welcome-home parties weren’t common. Thank-yous were few. Many veterans were attacked verbally or physically by fellow Americans who opposed the war.

Now, soldiers are warmly welcomed, hailed as heroes by their neighbors, Roland said. Her teenage students can’t comprehend an era when America didn’t hold up its veterans home that way, but they’ve decided it’s not too late to thank those whose sacrifices went unnoticed.

On Dec. 1, students at Mt. Vernon High School will host a Welcome Home event for Vietnam and Korean war veterans, opening the school doors to pay their respects to servicemen and women who defended America’s way of life, and they’ve invited the community to participate.

About 8.7 million Americans served in Vietnam, another 5.7 million in Korea. More than 100,000 of them gave their lives to the war, according the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

They deserve a warm welcome home, organizers say, the support today’s service members feel when returning from war.

“Soldiers today are heroes. We all but worship the ground they walk on,” Roland said. “Our kids don’t understand the gravity of that. They don’t understand why we didn’t welcome our soldiers home.”

Roland has been planning the event since last year. The idea came to her after seeing a news story about a community that held a welcome home party for Vietnam veterans.

She got to work, contacting coworkers and friends to find veterans who might want to participate. She sent about 150 letters to area veterans, inviting them to the school.

Principal Greg Roach was supportive of the event since the onset. The event will teach students about a time in history and give them an experience they can’t get inside a classroom, he said.

“The planning, promoting, and carrying out of our ceremony has and will raise awareness of the life experience of the veterans in that time period. This event will give them the opportunity to see the veterans in person, hear about their experiences and interact directly with them,” Roach wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

That day, students will line the hallways to cheer them on. Then, students from the U.S. history classes will be invited to talk with veterans about the war and the jobs they had during it.

From 4 to 5 p.m., the doors open to the public, and community members can drop by to visit with veterans.

The event is open to any Vietnam or Korean war veteran. Roland asks veterans to RSVP to ensure organizers have plenty of refreshments ready.

Community members do not need to RSVP to attend.

If you go

Mt. Vernon High School will host a Welcome Home event for Vietnam and Korean war veterans Dec. 1.

The event begins at 1 p.m. and is expected to last until 5 p.m.

Veterans who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to organizer Jennifer Rolland by calling 317-315-6215.

Community members are welcome to attend the event from 4 to 5 p.m.

Lend a hand

Mt. Vernon High School is hosting a Welcome Home event for Vietnam and Korean war veterans Dec. 1.

Organizers are looking for businesses to donate refreshments or money to buy refreshments for veterans who participate.

To donate, call Jennifer Roland at 317-315-6215.

Author photo
Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.