When I was a little girl, I can remember my Daddy telling me about being a sailor on a ship in WWII. He didn't talk much about it, and I was only 15 years old when he passed away, but I clearly remember how proud he was that he served our country. I can also remember hearing stories from my mom about her mother having five sons fighting in the war at the same time and how they all came home. Patriotism was a big thing in my family and has always been part of my core.
Less than six years ago, when the opportunity to be a part of the then "Welcome Home Vietnam" event became available, I jumped at the chance, for very personal reasons. It was a way for me to honor my Dad. Sure, he wasn't a Vietnam Veteran and he isn't here to see it, but in my heart, I was definitely doing it for him.
Three years ago, the event began evolving into what it is now, a five day celebration with a full schedule of meaningful and moving events. Throughout this process, I have thought about my dad and how proud he would be but I have also developed relationships with "my" veterans who come every year and look forward to being a part of this event. People like Paul Hawkins, or, as I call him, "Mr. Sippi", or Mike Wagner who comes from New York with his dog, Rosie, every year. They have become like family to me and this has become a family reunion.
To sum it up, I am passionate about the Welcome Home Veterans Celebration because it is important. It is important that we never forget. It is important that we show appreciation to all veterans from any conflict. It is important that we teach our children about service and sacrifice. It is important that we come together as Americans and lift each other up, even if it is only for those few short days every September and we see old friends, share experiences and make new friends.
For the next several weeks, I will be featuring someone who has been involved with the Welcome Home event every week, to tell you want this event means to them. I hope you will enjoy hearing more about it and I hope you will be encouraged to attend and get involved. It will touch your heart, that I can guarantee.