Though many veterans today receive a hearty welcome home when they return from combat zones overseas, may Vietnam veterans didn’t receive any such thing.
Today, people are doing everything they can to rectify this situation. Run for the Wall, a yearly pilgrimage across the country by bikers, is meant to honor all combat veterans but has special meaning for the Vietnam veterans.
The ride, which starts in California, ends in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day where participants view the Vietnam War Memorial.
Junction City is one of several stopping points around the country for Run for the Wall.
After the bikers arrived in Junction City Sunday, there was a ceremony where several officials spoke, including Mayor Phyllis Fitzgerald and acting Commanding General of Fort Riley Brig. Gen. Patrick Frank.
According to Fitzgerald, this has been a popular stop among riders.
“It’s really, truly an honor – a privilege that they stop over in Junction City,” she said. “We welcome them, we welcome all of our veterans, we absolutely care about our veterans.”
According to Frank, the Run for the Wall used to stop in Salina before coming to Junction City because of the Kansas Vietnam Memorial in Heritage Park.
“We believe … that this is sacred ground — for Junction City for Kansans and for the 1st Infantry Division,” he said.
Riders were presented with a picture of the Kansas Vietnam Memorial to take with them to Washington, D.C.
During the ceremony, Frank presented the Vietnam veterans with lapel pins.
“Today’s generation of soldiers thanks you,” Frank said.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
Though the Run for the Wall is largely geared toward American soldiers, not every veteran who rides is American. Edwin Musto of New Zealand, a veteran who fought in South Africa in the 1980s, discovered the Run for the Wall while writing a book about his family name. This is his second year doing Run for the Wall.
“This experience, doing Run for the Wall is life changing,” Musto said.
He chose to travel all the way to America to take part in Run for the Wall because he appreciates what the country does for its veterans.
“I come to America because no other country respects their veterans like this ride does, there’s no other country that does this for veterans, for missing in action, prisoners of war,” Musto said. “Servicemen throughout the world need to be acknowledged. We still have people fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq … We need to be there for them and we must never forget those that are fallen.”