Vietnam vets get an overdue welcome home
Jay and Leigh Livermore didn't get an official welcome when they returned home from the Vietnam War.
On Saturday, New Richmond VFW Post 10818 made amends for that by conducting a military salute to the brothers 40 and 37 years, respectively, after their arrival back in Hudson.
Also honored was Thomas Lemmons of Steelville, Mo., a small town about 40 miles southwest of St. Louis.
New Richmond VFW Post members Dave Green and Lee Shourds recently began the Welcome Home Program after reflecting on the anonymous return of Vietnam veterans.
The post conducts ceremonies for veterans of the conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan upon receiving a request from a family member.
Shourds, the post's quartermaster, reads the veteran's military history and then presents him or her with an album containing awards and a record of their service. The post's color guard is present to lend pageantry to the ceremony.
Also on hand for Saturday's ceremony at the St. Croix County Government Center in Hudson were members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle organization dedicated to showing respect to military veterans.
Jay and Leigh Livermore's sister Sharon LaCosse of Hudson requested the ceremony.
Lemmons' wife, Joy, read about the Welcome Home Program on the Internet and called Green to request one for her husband. Green is a Hudson native who served with Lemmons in the Army's Bravo Co., 3rd Battalion, 173rd Airborne in Vietnam.
Green asked the Livermores if they minded sharing the honors with Lemmons, and they were quick to welcome him.
"I don't know what to say. It's nice," Jay Livermore said with a catch in his voice following the 15-minute ceremony. "I'm pleased and I'm moved."
Jay said the real hero of the Livermore family was his younger brother Leigh, whose service in Vietnam came to an end when he was wounded by shrapnel from a mine in fighting along the Cambodian border.
Leigh and the rest of the members of the Army's Echo Co. Recon, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Calvary Division received the Silver Star Award for their participation in the 1970 incursion into Cambodia.
Leigh said that Jay, four years his senior, was his hero.
Jay was drafted into the Marines and spent 1967 in Vietnam with a very busy artillery unit near the city of Da Nang.
Jay graduated from Hudson High School in 1963, and Leigh, in 1967.
After returning from Vietnam, Jay had a 30-year career with 3M Co. and worked a few more years with Nor-Lake before retiring. He's now an active volunteer and board member for St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity.
Leigh is the operations manager of Cardinal Distribution's Hudson facility.
"It didn't really bother me to not have a ceremony or a big welcome home," Leigh said. "My parents and my family supported me really, really well. And the community, too. I've always had a good support group right here in town."
About 40 family members and friends of the veterans attended the Saturday's ceremony.
Lemmons was clearly moved by the ceremony.
Green had gotten him to make the trip north by telling him they were going to welcome home veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
"I didn't have any idea this was going to happen," Lemmons said. "It's awesome. You guys are beautiful. I'm so honored. I'm so blessed. Thank you very much."
He remembered a general telling his mother when he returned home wounded from Vietnam that he had suffered psychological harm, too.
"He's not the boy you sent over," the general said.
You can learn more about the Welcome Home Program online at www.vfwwelcomehome.com.