Connecticut says ‘thank you’ to Vietnam vets – 50 years after the war ended

The state of Connecticut honored Vietnam veterans Thursday, exactly 50 years after the controversial war ended. But for many vets, the memories are still painful – and complicated.

John Craven

Mar 30, 2023, 9:51 PM

Updated 385 days ago

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The state of Connecticut honored Vietnam veterans Thursday, exactly 50 years after the controversial war ended. But for many vets, the memories are still painful – and complicated.
At the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day ceremony at the state Veterans Home in Rocky Hill, top leaders hailed the crowd as heroes.
“Welcome home, ladies and gentlemen,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.
It's far from the “welcome” Ted Graziani got in 1968.
“Ah, there was no welcome home,” he said.
Graziani was just 19. He survived the violent Tet Offensive, only to come home to a nation bitterly divided over the war – and the soldiers who fought in it.
“I just lost it. I said, ‘Goddamn it, I wish I was back over there – because at least I know what to expect over there,’” said Graziani. “My father was a World War II veteran. Maybe we would be – how they were treated, we would be treated. You know, the ‘Greatest Generation,’ the parades and ‘Thank you for what you did.’ Just the opposite.”
Graziani vowed to change things for Vietnam vets. As a state lawmaker in 2010, he helped pass the law creating “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” The war ended on March 29, 1973, but Graziano picked the next day because Vietnam falls on the other side of the International Date Line. For the last soldiers, the conflict ended on March 30.
Connecticut was the second state to designate a day for Vietnam veterans. Seven years later, Congress passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act.
During Thursday’s ceremony, veterans expressed appreciation but also bitterness and frustration about their harsh homecoming decades ago.
“It was not the Vietnam veteran who started that war – not the Vietnam veteran who set the national policy and how that war was to be conducted,” said Thomas Saadi, Connecticut’s veterans affairs commissioner.
On Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont nominated Saadi to be a Superior Court judge. Lamont called Vietnam veterans’ treatment a “betrayal” and vowed to keep vets housed and employed.
“I tell every business in this state every day, ‘Hire a veteran,’” said Lamont.
Graziani said America has come a long way in 50 years. But in a nation as deeply divided now as it was then, he wonders if America learned the lessons of Vietnam.
“History repeats itself,” said Graziani. “And it's a damn shame.”


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