Local Vietnam veterans honored decades after returning home

March 29, 1973 was the last day U.S. troops were on the ground in Vietnam. Thousands of soldiers returned home to a country where many didn’t appreciate their sacrifice.

With the American flag flying high, Vietnam veteran Fred Ross stands in silence with a tight grip on his cane and a some sadness in his heart.

"I still to this day remember things that happened over there," says Ross. "We had one of the worst fires on an aircraft carrier since Word War II."

He doesn’t talk about it much, but he remembers it and wears a shirt in honor of the 200 men killed in that fire.

"Certain sounds, certain smells, it still brings me back," says Ross.

When Ross and other veterans returned home, they were spit at, mocked and ridiculed. Now, decades later, they’re getting some respect.

The Veteran Affairs secretary has designated March 29, 2016, as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.

For veteran Michael Swinford, the thank you is long overdue.

"You cannot use an event like this to erase 50 years of being ignored, essentially," says Swinford. "But it can be used as a platform to enhance our future by knowing that somebody does care."

"Every day I think that I’m glad that I made it home okay," says Ross.

The sacrifices Ross made during the war still haunt him, but as he reflects on Tuesday’s event, he can feel a weight being lifted from his heavy heart.

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