Forty-two years after the siege of Khe Sanh and the Tet Offensive and thirty-five years after the fall of Saigon the state of Wisconsin officially welcomed the troops back home from Vietnam this weekend. The event is called LZ, for Landing Zone, Lambeau.
The official welcoming began Friday with a motorcycle “honor ride” of 1,244 Wisconsin Vietnam veterans from La Crosse, on the Mississippi River side of the state to Lambeau Field in Green Bay. The number of riders represented the number of men Wisconsin lost in Vietnam.
Riders attended a mandatory safety meeting Thursday night to be briefed on “specific details about the times and routes, along with the ‘rules of the road.’” Riders then left La Crosse in small groups “at different intervals to avoid congestion and collisions on the road.”
Honor riders were also welcomed home with the opportunity to purchase an official “Honor Ride package from Global recognition to include a LZ Lambeau Honor Ride patch, windscreen logo, hatpin, and a LZ Lambeau Honor Ride challenge coin. This package costs $20.”
The event was sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Public Television. Between 50,000 and 70,000 people were expected to attend.
The motorcycle ride was led by a man named Gary Wetzel who was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions on January 8th, 1968. He was a door gunner on a helicopter that was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade. He was severely wounded, passed out twice from the loss of blood and still managed to hold off the enemy with his machine gun until relief could arrive.
Wetzel told the Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent, “We are constantly saying thank you to our World War II veterans. This is a thank you to the Vietnam veterans. Amen.”
Responsible Opposing View
A small group of veterans protested the event. A man named Buzz Davis who represents a group called Veterans for Peace told the ABC affiliate in Green Bay that, “The idea is good, but It’s all been taken over by pro-military, pro-war and recruitment efforts.” Then he told NBC, “It has turned into a million dollar extravaganza, motorcycle rides and all that sort of thing.”
A man named Will Williams described the event as “a promotion for militarism, for support for current wars and to recruit young people.”
The event ends Sunday with an event called the “Wiping of the Tears Ceremony.”