McMinn County provides an annual tribute for its Vietnam veterans.

The 8th Annual Vietnam Veterans Day Ceremony will be held this Friday, March 29, at 11 a.m., at the McMinn Senior Activity Center.

McMinn County Veteran Services Officer Susan Peglow is one of the primary organizers of this event. As a U.S. Army veteran and someone who works with McMinn County veterans on a daily basis, Peglow believes Vietnam veterans deserve the honor and respect that many did not receive when they returned home from the politically-divisive war.

“I think it’s important to honor all the men and women who served, be it World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq,” she said. “The thing about Vietnam veterans, it’s just a little bit different. When World War II ended, they came home to ticker-tape parades and they had a lot of support here at home. When Korea ended, they didn’t really get much of a welcome home, but they were not slandered in newspapers and the news media. However, that was not the case with the Vietnam veterans. When they came home, they were not given a ticker-tape parade. They were told to discard their uniforms in the trash. They were treated very poorly. They were slandered in the news and on TV.”

Peglow noted that Vietnam veterans were the first to welcome soldiers home from the first Iraq War.

“They need in return what they have given to others,” said Peglow regarding her motivation to hold this annual event.

She added that Vietnam veterans are starting to enter the twilight of their lives and opportunities to honor and appreciate their courage and sacrifice are becoming fewer with each passing year.

“We don’t want to miss an opportunity to thank them,” she said.

The keynote speaker for this year’s ceremony is retired Sgt. Kenneth Jackson from Etowah. Jackson earned a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross for his service.

Peglow said this year’s program will be shorter than in years past, but will still feature some of the favorites from previous ceremonies, including Dr. Yvonne Hubbard, a readjustment counselor with the Chattanooga Vet Center. Also featured will be guest musician Sarah Kelly and other speakers and dignitaries, as well as Vietnam-era exhibits.

A special feature this year will be a tribute to the World War II veterans in attendance.

Peglow praised the efforts of Brenda Lowe in helping to organize this ceremony each year. Lowe is instrumental in raising money though donations to fund the event and helps organize the luncheon following the ceremony.

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