The Vietnam War was one of this country's biggest embarrassments. No, not because our government pulled the plug on this conflict and didn't allow our men and women to emerge victorious.
The embarrassment stems from the way our troops were treated when they returned from this unpopular war, which triggered demonstrations and protests throughout the nation.
After sacrificing life and limb, the troops came home to protesters screaming into their faces and waving anti-American signs. Some were spit on. Others just returned and were ignored.
This writer remembers one veteran telling him that when he returned from his second tour of duty in Vietnam, there was no band and flag wavers there to meet him at the airport. There were no adoring and appreciative fellow-Americans. The only one's there were his mother and father.
Now, almost 40 years after that conflict ended, Pennsylvania is about to do something to right this injustice to our troops. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives this week passed a bill declaring March 30 of every year "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day."
Soldiers of that conflict are all now in the 60s and 70s. They have become the senior generation, as nearly all and most of the World War I and World War II and Korean veterans are passing on with much frequency because of advancing age.
"The Vietnam War was controversial and many of our returning soldiers were met with protests instead of parades," said Rep John Pallone, sponsor of the bill. "This bill would help to heal the emotional wounds of the war for Pennsylvania servicemen and women.
Pallone crafted the legislation after Dennis Gianotti, a Vietnam veteran from New Kensington, talked with him about the national movement to designate March 30 as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day."
"As a volunteer advocate for local veterans, I can see how important it is for those who served to know their sacrifice was appreciated. It is important that we designate a day where everyone could pause to think of the contributions of our Vietnam veterans," Gianotti said. "I want to thank Representative Pallone for his work in ensuring our Vietnam veterans are never forgotten.
The Vietnam War was fought from 1961-1975 with more than 58,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces killed; over 3,400 of them Pennsylvanians. And some from this area.
It was March 29, 1973, that the last remaining troops of the U.S. Armed Forces withdrew from the Vietnam theatre of war.
Several states have already adopted "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" resolutions. We're confident that when the bill reaches the Senate floor, it will be passed unanimously.
It's something that's long overdue, but also a tribute that still isn't too late to observe.