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“I guess when I got back, I didn’t expect to be spit on.” Area Vietnam vets get special recognition at Fort McCoy



Ft. McCoy commander Stephen Messenger (right) presents service pins to Vietnam veterans on May 18, 2024 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

Armed Forces Day was observed around the U.S. on Saturday, thanking current service members and veterans for representing their country.

Fort McCoy used the occasion to hold a special ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans, who have said they did not receive thanks from the public until recently.

Vietnam veterans stand and receive applause during Fort McCoy ceremony on May 18, 2024 (PHOTO: Brad Williams)

Roland Larson of Eau Claire is a Marine veteran, who attended the ceremony and appreciated being recognized after all these years.

“I guess when I got back, I didn’t expect to be spit on and called ‘baby killer’ and things like that,” Larson said, recalling treatment which other veterans of the war have also described. “I think that’s changing now or at least it has changed in the last few years.”

Larson served with the Marines in Vietnam in 1967 and ’68.

Saturday, he and other Vietnam vets sat in the front row, as fort commander Stephen Messenger presented them with special pins marking their service in the war.

Messenger said he experienced some of the public gratitude the night before the official event, while visiting La Crosse.

“We were walking around in our uniforms for an event, and I was thanked on the streets by at least 12 different groups of people,” Messenger said. “And the Vietnam veterans we have, they just never experienced that, most of them haven’t, and they’ve never been thanked for their service on the street, as they’re walking around in uniform.”

Messenger argues that in the long run, America did win the Vietnam war, because that war helped lead to the fall of Communism.

Special pins were presented to veterans of Vietnam during a Ft. McCoy event for Armed Forces Day on May 18, 2024 (PHOTO: Brad Williams

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Guy Wolf

    May 20, 2024 at 9:30 am

    Everyone deserves their right to their opinion. A soldier who has served deserves the highest of any regard for an opinion. The idea however that soldiers were spat upon when returning home from combat has never been legitimized by concrete evidence. As someone who felt the loss of friends and family due to the Vietnam War, and having worked in a VA it’s important to recognize that repeating stories that contribute negatively towards the mental health of returning soldiers has impacts on their well being. I understand the feelings soldiers, but I think it wise for the media not to highlight a very misleading story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_the_spat-on_Vietnam_veteran

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