By Sara Tischauser
The welcome as the veterans got off the plane from the Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight on July 27 was a very different welcome than what the veterans received when they came back from Vietnam.
Some Vietnam Veterans from the area were able to be part of the sixth annual Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight that flew out of and returned to the EAA grounds in Oshkosh on July 27.
The Vietnam War is known to some as the “forgotten war” but the Honor Flight helps show Vietnam Veterans that they are not forgotten and gives them the warm welcoming they didn’t receive when they first came back from Vietnam.
Clarence Mueller, of Black Creek, said he didn’t hear the negative comments when he came back from Vietnam but he can imagine what others went through.
“When I came back, I came back on a stretcher,” Mueller said. “I didn’t hear people calling me ‘baby killer,’ but can picture how it went.”
Lee Rihm, of Menasha (formerly of Seymour), said that even after he got back from Vietnam he was reminded of the war every day at home.
“The country was divided after I got our of service,” Rihm said. “The war was brought to our supper table every night until our troops were leaving [Vietnam].”
Both Mueller and Rihm along with Jerry Englebert were among the veterans that took part in the honor flight. The flight left Oshkosh at 6:30 a.m. on July 27 and made its way to Washington D.C. Once the plane landed in D.C. the veterans were met by many people.
“As we disembarked from plane, met by large group of people, quite a big crowd,” Rihm said of their welcome to Washington D.C.
Once the veterans were off the plane, they boarded buses and made their way to the Lincoln Memorial to take pictures. After the visit to the Lincoln Memorial Rihm said they crossed the street and went to see the Vietnam Wall. Rihm said they were each given a white carnation to place wherever they wanted at the Wall.
Visiting the Vietnam Wall came with mixed emotions.
“In a way it was depressing, in a way it was nice,” Mueller said about seeing the Wall. “Were probably names of people on there I knew.”
Mueller said they went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History after the Vietnam Wall and then they went to Arlington National Cemetery.
“We went to Arlington for changing of the guard,” Rihm said. “That’s a very somber ceremony.”
During the changing of the guard, Mueller said each of the 21 steps the guard takes represents something significant to 21 (like 21 gun salute).
After the veterans finished touring Washington D.C. they boarded the plane and started their journey back to Oshkosh. Once arriving in Oshkosh the veterans were met by many people.
“I was overwhelmed when I got off plane,” Rihm said. “People on left side, right side and forward and army band. [It was] four to five people deep on all sides. People wanted to shake your hand and say thank you for your service.”
Rihm said the honor’s flight is a way to help veteran’s cope and heal from all they went through in Vietnam.
“It’s a wonderful organization, this honor’s flight,” Rihm said. “The veterans are so thankful for this organization. It’s part of the healing process.”
The honor’s flight experience is one that may take some veterans longer to come to terms with everything they experienced.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Mueller said about his honor flight experience. “It may have provided some closure.”
The entire experience though, Mueller said was definitely worth it.
“Anyone who has chance to go on it I would advise them to,” Mueller said. “They won’t regret it.”