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'Welcome home:' Emotional ceremony for Vietnam vets in Biloxi

JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALD 
 Royce 'Gator' Cannon joins other Vietnam veterans who were honored Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at Biloxi National Ceremony.
JEFF CLARK/SUN HERALD Royce 'Gator' Cannon joins other Vietnam veterans who were honored Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at Biloxi National Ceremony.

BILOXI -- Vietnam veterans were recognized during an emotional "welcome home" ceremony Tuesday morning at Biloxi National Cemetery. The remembrance ceremony was sponsored in part by Crusaders for Veterans.

It was held in front of the MIA/POW flag on the cemetery's east end.

"We are taking time out to honor our veterans, particularly those who served in Vietnam," said Kevin "Reb" Cuttill of Crusaders for Veterans. "We are recognizing the fallen."

The remembrance was part of a national movement commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Most states recognize March 29 or 30 as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day."

Cemetery director Graham Wright said there are more than 7 million living Vietnam veterans.

He said the welcome home ceremony was long overdue.

"Let's do what we should have done a long time ago and welcome home the men and women who served our country during Vietnam," Wright said.

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The remembrance was emotional for the veterans and the families of veterans who often had to wipe away tears. Cutliff said the experience was a personal one.

"My brother-in-law served in Vietnam," he said. "He came home in early 1972 when I was 16. He came home physically ill and mentally destroyed. PTSD was not a diagnosis back then, it was simply called shell shock."

Cutliff said his brother-in-law was destroyed by the war that left him a vagabond and homeless before his death.

"I was very deeply affected by this," he said. "I saw a great deal of patriots come home without the proper congratulations and the proper respect."

Royce "Gator" Cannon, commander of Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, laid a wreath at the foot of the MIA/POW flag as taps played quietly.

"Welcome home, brothers," he said.

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