Even more than 40 years late, the recognition felt good.
Veterans of the Vietnam War didn’t come home to parades, celebration and thanks for their service. Rather, they faced stigma, disdain and a society that wished to bury the U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia in history.
So when Steve Young found out New Whiteland officials wanted to build a special memorial honoring Vietnam veterans in Indiana, he was on board.
“It was a recognition that was finally coming about after so many years,” he said. “The people who came back from that war faced some difficult times. I felt it was important to recognize some of the people who hadn’t really had any appreciation for the sacrifice they made.”
Young and his wife, Anne, were major contributors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Proctor Park. He had flown F-100 fighter planes during the war in the U.S. Air Force.
The Morgantown-area resident joined the service in 1968, went through pilot training and was sent to Vietnam in early 1970. By the end of the year, the military was starting to phase down its involvement.
Young was sent home early. His task was to fly one of the F-100s all the way back to the U.S. The rest of his 12-year active duty was spent training pilots at varying assignments.
When the monument was dedicated in 2014, Young stood in the crowd and helped celebrate its unveiling. Seeing the emotional reaction not only from Vietnam veterans, but from the community at large, was moving.
“A lot of the veterans there had never, ever had the recognition. That was long, long overdue for them,” he said. “It’s a shame we let that happen.”