Long overdue Vietnam Vet Welcome Home!
In 2008, myself and a few friends started a group called the American Patriot Riders. Speaking for myself, a non vet, I found it my duty to recognize all men and women in uniform as well as their families. For others, they felt it their duty to look out for their brothers and sisters in arms.
Some of what we did was stand a flag line for fallen soldiers, as well as veteran funerals. We also did motorcycle escorts of all types, home repair for disabled veterans, and organizing and hosting fundraisers. I also took a lot of honor of having the great opportunity to speak at many veteran events.
While speaking at these events, we were able to meet members of some amazing organizations. Some include the VFW, American Legion, DAV, as well as many Veteran Motorcycle Clubs. While our networking circuit’s grew, we ran across a local organization that was putting together an amazing program.
This program was a “Welcome Home” venue designed to officially welcome home Vietnam Veterans. What an honorable thing to do. There has never been another war in history where our veterans were mistreated in such a vicious way.
Our soldiers that were risking their lives, that were dying, that were honoring their patriotic duty, were being treated with the highest level of disrespect from the exact same people they felt they were fighting for.
So after hearing of this “Welcome Home” program, we offered full support. While this was in the process of finalizing the ceremony details, I was contacted by a member of this committee. They knew that there is not a man on the face of earth that I respected more than my father, Gary Stucci, and aggressively honored his service to our country.
My father served the US Army. His dates were 1967-69, and he was enlisted with 101st Airborne and then with 82nd Airborne. He was wounded in action by gunshot, and a body full of shrapnel. Even with the horror he faced during his time in Vietnam, he came home and proved his loyalty to his family. Yes, like many vets, he had many psychological battles, many nights of no sleep, PTSD, but some how he crushed those demons back to where they belong.
So my reaction to this opportunity to do this for my father was overwhelming, and a huge honor. The arrangements were made and the day was well prepared.
The day finally arrived, and my father had not a clue that any of this was happening. The reason for this was he would have never accepted it. His belief would be that there is someone who deserves it more.
Once people started to arrive, the streets filled up with motorcycles and cars from supporters, family, and patriots. We established a huge flag line, the VFW color guard was set, and we were down to the final minutes.
While I’m typing this, and bringing myself to this moment in life, tears are flowing down my face. I remember the look on his face while pulling up. He gets out of the vehicle, identified the color guard, and in a split second, he stood at full attention.
“While looking into his eyes, watching them water up, I knew without doubt that he was not standing there for himself. He was standing there for all of his brothers. Honoring those who didn’t get the chance to come home, he was standing for their families, standing for all the men he fought side by side with. In remembrance, in loyalty, and with respect.
During this ceremony, when it became my time to speak, I have never had an honor so high, to express my love, loyalty, and thanks to such a great man, father, and friend.
My final thought, I would like to thank any person, at any time, that served this country. To all Vietnam vets, I couldn’t express how my heart feels about what you all experienced. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart, and would like to say with the highest respect, Welcome Home, and Thank You!
To my father, Gary Stucci, I love you, and Thank You for never giving up. You have taught me the most important lessons in life! You are my father, my hero, my best friend, and you will never be forgotten. In loving memory of Robert Pruden!
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