[caption id=“attachment_7020” align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“A Rolling Thunder supporter visits a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, erected at Charlotte Motor Speedway March 31, 2012, at the USO of North Carolina’s Vietnam Veteran Homecoming Celebration. Photo by Jonathan E Coleman”][/caption]

“Welcome Home”

It’s a simple but comforting sentiment most Vietnam War veterans never heard when they returned from combat—until now.

On March 31, 2012, the USO of North Carolina, along with Charlotte Motor Speedway and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, hosted the Vietnam Veterans Homecoming Celebration.

“The USO of North Carolina’s Vietnam Veteran Homecoming Celebration at Charlotte Motor Speedway brought 62,500 people around the nation with one goal—celebrate the service and sacrifices of a generation our nation forgot to honor nearly 40 years ago,” said John Falkenbury, President of USO of North Carolina.

While celebration was the tone of the day, assistance and education were also common themes at the raceway.

National, regional and local Veterans Affairs assets, as well as over 100 military and veteran nonprofits provided health assessments, processed claims and educated veterans on organizations who were willing to help all veterans.

The entertainment line-up included The Charlie Daniels Band, George Clinton, Rockie Lynn, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band, and the 82nd Airborne Division “All-American” Chorus.

Because many veterans have not had the chance to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., an exact two-dimensional replica of the Wall was erected in the infield to honor each of the 58,195 Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice during the war.

“We’re proud that we were able to leverage the USO brand and reputation, along with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, to accomplish one of the nation’s largest gatherings to honor the Vietnam warriors and their families,” said Falkenbury.

“Why now? Why not now?” he added. “It’s never too late to honor the men and women of our country.” – By Joseph Andrew Lee, USO Staff Writer