"Welcome home." Not many Americans who served in Vietnam heard those words when their tours of duty ended and they came home. As the conflict escalated, casualties mounted and costs rose, the anti-war protests increased in number and intensity. In fact, when 250,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., in 1969 to call for the U.S. to withdraw troops from Vietnam, it was the largest anti-war protest in the nation's history.
Against this backdrop, there was no heroes' welcome for Vietnam veterans. Instead, they were met with little acknowledgment and in some cases, even anger or contempt, fueled by a perception that American soldiers had lost the war or caused the deaths of Vietnamese civilians.
Maryland Public Television (MPT) aims to rectify that oversight with MPT Salutes Vietnam Veterans, a multi-million dollar, multi-faceted celebration of those who served during the Vietnam War. A three-hour documentary, Maryland Vietnam War Stories, will air on MPT in one-hour segments on three successive nights, May 24, 25, and 26. The film features veterans representing each branch of the armed forces, as well as medics and corpsmen, nurses, helicopter pilots, and the widow of a downed pilot, among others.
The film serves as the introduction to LZ Maryland, a two-day event to honor Vietnam veterans from Maryland and give them the welcome home they deserve. Scheduled for June 18-19 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Md., LZ Maryland will feature a flyover by Huey and Chinook helicopters, a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and nationally-recognized entertainment from the Vietnam era. A Reunion Lounge will help those who served reconnect with members of their unit.
On June 18, MPT invites military veterans from Vietnam and other wars, military family members, and motorcycle organizations to participate in The Honor Ride to salute the 1,017 Marylanders who died in combat or are missing in action. Ceremonies throughout LZ Maryland – including the silent tribute of 1,017 white empty chairs placed in the fairgrounds' infield – will commemorate the 1,017 Marylanders who died in combat or are missing in action in Vietnam.