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Vietnam veterans to get second welcome home at Fort Sill, Lawton

Volunteers in Lawton and the Fort Sill community have organized one of first events leading up to U.S. Defense Department's 2025 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
BY LEIGHANNE MANWARREN Published: March 27, 2013

Bill Behrens had two very different homecoming experiences when he returned from combat in Vietnam in 1970.

The returning Marine corporal stopped in Los Angeles before transferring to a flight home to Flint, Mich.

“When I flew into Los Angeles and was changing planes, I had people throw things at me, which were rose petals,” Behrens said, “and yelled at me some obscenities and said the rose petals represented the innocent Vietnamese that I killed.”

Behrens, 66, of Yukon, said he landed in Michigan about 2 a.m. and started walking home from the airport in his uniform with his duffel bag over his shoulder. The second car to pass pulled over and the driver asked him where he lived.

“The gentleman who took me to my door thanked me for my service,” he said.

Behrens went inside, walked into his bedroom and went to sleep.

“My parents didn't know I was back until I came down for breakfast,” Behrens said.

A belated welcome

As the U.S. Defense Department makes plans to mark in 2025 the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, Fort Sill and Lawton volunteers have organized events Friday and Saturday — including a welcome home ceremony for all the Vietnam veterans, especially those who never had a happy homecoming.

Pat Hollis, 68, of Lawton, is one of the volunteers spearheading the events.

“Fort Sill and Lawton will be one of the first to hold a huge celebration,” Hollis said. “There are going to be all kinds of celebrations all over the nation to work up to this monumental celebration in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the ending of the Vietnam War.”

Hollis said about 1,500 people have indicated they will attend the events so far, but more veterans and civilians are welcome to participate.

Shared experiences

Marcus Whitt II, 65, of Edmond, is going to the ceremony and is excited to talk to other veterans.

“It's more about being there and a part of a group, knowing that others are just like me there. I'm just looking forward to being around a bunch of guys, you know, soldiers, sailors, Marines, anybody that served in that era, and see what they have done with their lives,” Whitt said.

No one wanted to talk to him about his experiences in Vietnam when he came home, he said.

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