A Vietnam War veteran finally received the thanks he deserved more than 50 years ago in the form of a parade thrown by the entire community.
Dennis Berger and eight other veterans in Coral Springs, Florida were honored by the community and first responders Saturday after waiting 52 years for a “thank you” and “welcome home.”
“It was a community welcome that many of us never got,” said Berger, 73, who served in the Army during the war for just over a year when he was 19.
According to Tap Into News, the parade was in response to the cancellation of this year’s Honor Flights due to coronavirus. Although the flights have been rescheduled for next spring, the town of Coral Springs still felt as if their veterans deserved some sort of celebration honoring their service.
“It was important for me to do this because I think the veterans are such an important part of our country, let alone our community,” said Mayor Scott Brook.
“I do not think that we can never do enough to share our gratitude. This is the least I could do.”
Each veteran was joined in their homes by local elected officials, who stayed and chatted with the veterans until the parade came into view.
“In many cases, the neighbors came out and brought cupcakes and celebrated with them,” said Ryan Paton, co-founder of Honor Flight of South Florida and the group’s director of operations.
“This meant so much to them. Many of these guys were just 18 when they went off to the military so they never had someone important come to them, meet with them, and thank them.”
Veterans and parade onlookers alike received free BBQ from Mission BBQ, gifts from city officials, and masks and gloves.
“No one thanked us for our service,” Berger said, explaining how, upon returning home to Brooklyn in 1968, he was instructed not to wear his uniform out because of nationwide protests. He says he wore the uniform anyway.
“No one thanked us for our service,” he said. “But when I saw the parade and the sirens and lights, it was phenomenal. I’m really grateful.”