FREEHOLD – An event that will celebrate the efforts of and honor American military personnel who served in the Vietnam War will be held in Freehold Borough this spring.
A “Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home Celebration” will take place from 10-11:30 a.m. on May 23 at the First Presbyterian Church, which is located at 118 W. Main St.
The event will be hosted by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Freehold Chapter 74, with the U.S. Department of Defense serving as the national sponsor, according to information provided by the DAV.
Mark Gatanas, a retired U.S. Army colonel who served in the 1st Cavalry Division during the Vietnam War, will be the keynote speaker.
George Karatzia, a Vietnam veteran and the senior vice commander of Freehold Chapter 74, appeared before the Borough Council on Feb. 3 to discuss the celebration.
Karatzia explained that members of the U.S. armed forces were denounced and embarrassed when they returned home from Vietnam after fighting in what had become an unpopular war with the American public.
He said some individuals struggled to readjust to society following their experiences overseas.
“You are not coming home as the same person you were,” he said. “You brought the war home with you. It’s very painful.”
Veterans who attend the May 23 celebration will be greeted by their friends and family members as they enter the First Presbyterian Church.
Individuals who did not return home from the war in Southeast Asia will be acknowledged and clergy will embrace those individuals’ family members. Empty chairs draped with American flags will honor service members who did not return, Karatzia said.
“Our celebration is going to be very deep and very profound,” he told the council members.
Karatzia said there will be entertainment and music to conclude the program. There will be help on site to provide assistance to individuals who have questions about or issues relating to veterans benefits.
Veterans who wish to confirm their attendance at the May 23 celebration in Freehold Borough may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.