Vietnam vets get belated welcome-home event

WHITE SETTLEMENT — In 1968, James Hotopp flew from Vietnam to California and was told to immediately shed his Navy uniform for civilian duds.

Still, his buzz cut gave him away — other men his age had shaggy manes — and he recalls the glances and whispers from fellow passengers.

"There was no welcome-home parade, no thank you for your service," said Hotopp, a Navy machinist who served from 1967 to 1968. "We had a tough time."

On Saturday, 40 years after the fall of Saigon, veterans of the war received a long-overdue welcome.

Soldiers waved to friends and family, who lined a 2-mile parade route in White Settlement that ended at Veterans Park. Supporters waved American flags and embraced veterans, many of whom wiped tears from their eyes.

Hosted by the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base and the city of White Settlement, the parade and celebration were part of the "Welcome Home 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War," a 10-year Department of Defense program to recognize veterans.

During a ceremony, veterans spoke of feeling isolated upon returning home from war and of the guilt they felt for surviving when comrades did not.

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