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Program to honor Vietnam veterans
Returning combat veterans are greeted with praise, respect and gratitude for their service nowadays.

But that wasn't the case in the 1970s. Many Vietnam War veterans returned home to jeers from crowds of protesters who hurled insults, among other things, and accused the soldiers of being murderers and war criminals.

Those lucky enough to avoid the demonstrators at airports were met with something nearly as bad when they returned home -- indifference.

"At home, it was pretty much just another day," said Mike Browning, a Vietnam veteran and chairman of the Veterans Council of the Golden Isles.

Now, Browning and others are organizing a Veterans Day event they hope will give Vietnam veterans the welcome home they should have received 40 years ago.

The theme of the event is "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans." The event will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the St. Simons Island Casino bandstand on Nov. 12.

Browning said many of his organization's members are Vietnam veterans who show strong support for soldiers returning from combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Vietnam veterans are so supportive of veterans today," he said.

Browning said as the Veterans Day celebration nears, organizers will be encouraging people and businesses to erect signs welcoming Vietnam veterans home.

"Hopefully, we can get the word out," he said.

The guest of honor and keynote speaker is retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient for his service in Vietnam.

"We're looking forward to having him come and speak," Browning said. "We didn't want a politician. We wanted someone who has been there and done that."

The goal, more than anything else, is for as many Vietnam veterans as possible to participate in the Veterans Day event.

Browning said some Vietnam veterans still maintain a low profile and don't discuss their military service.

"The veterans need to come out," he said. "Hopefully, we can get the word out.

"If you agree with us that this is overdue, plan on turning out."

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