Parade, other activities will take place Wednesday

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FARMINGTON — An event designed to give a proper homecoming to Vietnam War veterans and honor their service will take place this week in Shiprock.

Vern R. Lee, commander for the Northern Agency Veterans Organization, said when veterans came home during the Vietnam War era, they did not receive a warm welcome and often were scrutinized because of their service.

"They still remember that to this day. To help the healing process, we decided to honor and recognize the Vietnam veterans," said Lee, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam.

Two factors also contributed to the development of the inaugural Vietnam Veterans Day planned for Wednesday.

The first is the presidential proclamation signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, Lee said. That official announcement was designed to honor more than 3 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War and declared March 29, 2012, Vietnam Veterans Day.

Second, the idea for the Shiprock event came from Wallace Charley, the veteran service officer for the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration's Shiprock office, Lee said.

The event will start with a parade followed by activities. Parade entries will line up at the Shiprock Port of Entry at 8 a.m., and the parade will start at 9 a.m. There is no cost to participate, and the route will travel from the port of entry on U.S. Highway 64 to the Northern Navajo Veterans Center on U.S. Highway 491.

The event continues at the veterans center with the posting of colors, the playing of taps and a three-volley salute by the Upper Fruitland Veterans Color and Honor Guard, as well as speeches, entertainment and lunch.

In conjunction with the event, a group of veterans started walking from Thoreau to Shiprock on March 24.

"We're kind of giving them that welcome home they didn't receive," said Candice Pioche-Zunie, an Air Force veteran and commander for the Upper Fruitland Veterans Organization.

Her father, Wilbert Pioche, served in Vietnam and did not talk about his experience or about his return home. He died in 2006.

"He was proud he served. …This is one way I can honor his service," she said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

If you go

What: Inaugural Vietnam Veterans Day celebration

When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The parade will proceed west on U.S. Highway 64 then south on U.S. Highway 491 through Shiprock. Event activities will take place at the Northern Navajo Veterans Center located along U.S. Highway 491

More info: Vern R. Lee, 505-635-3549

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