SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – March 29, 1973, was the official end to America's involvement in the Vietnam War.
However, for many veterans, coming home was a difficult new reality fraught with pain and rejection. They said at the ceremony that two-thirds of our Vietnam Veterans have already died.
A disproportionate number of those have struggled with mental illness and a variety of other health challenges.
"There is a brain cell that sits in my mind that lies dormant and quiet. It's labeled Vietnam," Retired Army Master Sergeant Charlie Inot said.
Inot didn't tell his combat stories Tuesday, but he did talk about the struggle many Vietnam vets faced when they returned to the states, only to have many Americans turn their backs on the men and women who went to fight an unpopular war and paid the price.
Retired Navy Commander Casey Meehan said talking with others who were in the country has helped her over the years.
Meehan also had a place to escape during her year in Vietnam. Her own quarters in a 650-bed Quonset-style hospital. She would go there to escape the realities of being a Navy hospital nurse in Da Nang. There she wrote reassuring but untrue letters to her mother.
"We're fine. We're not that busy," Meehan said.
"I served from August 4, 1968, to August 4, 1969," she said. "They keep these records… that said we admitted 22,000 patients the year I was there. They didn't stay long. We got them stabilized so that they could get on an AirVac flight."
Meehan lives in La Jolla and came to Tuesday's ceremony, where people could welcome her home and thank her and other veterans in attendance for their service.
"I wasn't looking for a parade," Inot said. "I think we all looked for a little validation. 'Was it worth it what I did for this country? For this nation? For the people? Was it worth it?'"