By Jeff Todd
WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s a group known for not having a proper welcome home, but Weld County is working to change that history for Vietnam Veterans.
“It really made me feel like I’ve been welcomed home,” said Steve White.
Weld County started holding pinning ceremonies in 2016. The ceremony on June 2 honored 62 veterans with pins and certificates of appreciation, but it was even more special for White.
“To see them and shake their hands and thank them for their service, it was amazing,” said Caitlyn Olson, White’s granddaughter and the Keynote Speaker at the event. “How grateful they were for being recognized because that wasn’t something that happened at the time. That’s not how it should have been.”
White enlisted in the Marines in 1965 and spent more than a year in Vietnam. He earned two purple hearts for injuries from land mines. When he returned home in 1967 the first people to see him taunted him and spit at his feet.
“Literally spat on the ground right in front of my feet. And that was my welcoming home.”
Olson didn’t realize what her grandfather had been through until she took a trip to Washington D.C. and saw the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. It inspired her to write an essay.
“58,272 names on 246 feet of granite wall,” Olson said reading her essay. “The weight of the granite and the weight of the names felt like bricks in my chest. The man who ran through my mind was my grandfather a Vietnam veteran who realized his duty to serve.”
Olson’s speech about service and dedication has gotten her national acclaim and scholarships, but she says it wouldn’t have come about without her grandfather.
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“It really is because of him that this essay is so strong and so powerful because it’s a first-hand experience who gave their service to the country,” Olson said. “My whole essay is about dedicating it to the people who served.”
“Hearing those thoughts from a young person,” White said. “That’s a presentation I’ll never tire of hearing.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.