Floats cruised and flags waved as hundreds gathered in Bennington on Sunday afternoon to give thanks to the Vietnam Veterans.
"By the looks of the turnout, I think we did well. I am very pleased. It looks awesome out there with all those flags up," said John Miner, President of the local Vietnam Vets of America chapter. To honor the 50th anniversary of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War, Miner took it upon himself to organize the festivities. Miner is proud of his service today, but said it wasn't always that way. "When I first came home, I felt it. I got so that I hid who I was," he said.
But the times are changing. Miner said events like Sunday's bring veterans together to remember those lost and be proud of those still standing.
The final stop of the parade was at a resource center that Miner established several years ago. A place where veterans can come together for help, and companionship. "It gives them a little feeling of peace to be able to come where their comrades are at. People that have been there, done that, you know it is easier to talk to those than the general public," said Gerald Woodard, a veterans outreach member. "We are here for all the troops regardless of what war you were from -- you have to have a place to come chill out."
"Things happened and I needed some help getting adjusted back to the civilian world," said Mike Buck. The veteran said he found that help at the Bennington Veterans Outreach Center. He said he struggled with alcohol, but found the path to recovery -- and a few friends along the way. "My admiration scale for these guys is about 1000," Buck said.
"The best part about it is I saw guys that belong to my chapter that haven't come to meetings or been around in five or six years -- and they were here today," Miner said. He said the parade helped the community to remember and honor the Vietnam veterans, but was even more special for the vets themselves. "The bottom line is it brought us all together again," he said.
Parade organizers said they hope to have an event every year until 2025, to honor and remember all 13 years the war lasted.
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