CHEYENNE, Wyoming — About 1,000 Vietnam War veterans from around the state are expected to attend a welcome-home reception that many never received when they returned from the conflict, an organizer said.
Larry Barttelbort, director of The Wyoming Veterans Commission, estimated there are about 16,800 Vietnam War-era vets in Wyoming.
The commission is organizing the first-ever Wyoming Vietnam Veterans "Welcome Home" Reunion. The event is schedule to be held June 4-7 in Casper.
A parade, memorial service, guest speakers and a barbeque are among the activities planned.
The event is free for the veterans and their friends and families. Scholarships to cover travel and lodging costs are available on a case-by-case basis.
"Our nation did not treat them very well when they came back," Barttelbort told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (http://bit.ly/1Rlklul). "So we are trying to do all the things that didn't happen for them."
Cheyenne resident Ed Carleo is among those planning to attend the event.
"When I got back from the war, we got into Oakland, and we were told to just change into our civilian clothes and go home," said Carleo, who also is a local coordinator for the event. "So this is a pretty big deal, since there are a lot of us veterans walking around with the same experience.
"We just never got a chance to get recognized, visit with each other or talk about our emotions."
Barttelbort said veterans are strongly encouraged to find more information and register online at http://wvvr.wyo.gov so organizers can plan for the proper number of attendees. But he said anyone who attends will be welcome to participate in the events.
Other highlights of the event include a motorcycle run, and a speech and book signing by Joe Galloway, a war correspondent whose book inspired the 2002 film, "We Were Soldiers."
Veterans also can volunteer to take part in a project that will record their oral histories of the war. The recordings will be archived at the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum, and some of the stories will be shared in the Casper Star-Tribune, Casper Journal and on Wyoming PBS.
Barttelbort said he expects some veterans will skip the event because they don't want to relive their experiences or are still angry about how the nation treated them when they returned.
But Lee Alley, a member of the Wyoming Veterans Commission who served during the Vietnam War, said he believes this could be a healing experience for those still hurt or angry about their experience.
"Vietnam veterans have a lot of dignity, respect and were just outstanding warriors," Alley said. "Unfortunately, because of the political climate of the time, they were not welcomed back as the true Americans they should've been.
"So this is just an opportunity for those soldiers to be looked in the eye, thanked for their service, and told that they served with dignity and did everything their country asked of them."
Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com