Vets shunned during homecoming to be honored

Posted at 7:01 PM, Mar 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-28 22:20:02-04

Military veterans who were shunned when they came home from war will soon get the honor they deserve.

Joan Craigwell knew hate long before war.

"I remember my mother had purchased a beautiful dress for me," she said. "A man directed me to the back of the bus, and I guess I wasn't going fast enough, so he just spat all over my face."

It did not bring her down and only made her push forward. She became an officer in the Air Force and was in Vietnam when the enemy launched the Tet Offensive.

"It was really colossal," Craigwell said.

Hundreds limped, crawled and were carried into the casualty staging area. Craigwell was the head nurse for the triage unit and saw constant carnage.

"You see napalm burns down to the bone, the AK-47 wounds in the belly, the flesh coming off of the soldiers," she explained.

She pushed passed that as well. She was so good at her job, that she was pulled to be an air nurse.

"It's like setting up a mini hospital on a plane," Craigwell added.

When veterans got home, the country they had just sacrificed for turned its back on them.

"It was horrible," she said. "It really was."

They knew what they did. Craigwell even got a Bronze Star, but her proudest moment was at the back of the plane.

"The soldiers were saluting us," she recalled. "That makes you proud of who you are, it makes you proud of the training, and it makes you proud of being a U.S. citizen."

Vietnam War veterans are invited to a free ceremony that recognizes, honors and thanks them for their service. The commemorative event will be held on March 29 beginning at 11:00 a.m. at the Scottish Rite Event Center in Mission Valley (1895 Camino del Rio South, San Diego).

March 29 is the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.

Vets will receive a red carpet welcome, see displays, receive a lapel pin and enjoy refreshments.

Vietnam vets and their families are invited to the free event. For more information on this event, please see: