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Event welcomes home Vietnam War veterans

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Upper Fruitland Color Guard member and Marine Corps veteran Alvis Kee holds the United States flag on Friday at the Vietnam Veterans Day welcome home ceremony at the Northern Navajo Veterans Center in Shiprock.

SHIPROCK — Thoreau resident Lynette Pablo helped carry a large banner with a photograph of U.S. Army Sgt. Leonard Pablo Sr., who served in the Vietnam War from 1968-1969.

Lynette Pablo is the Army veteran's daughter. She said despite the years since her father's military service, it was important to give him the homecoming he deserved.

That was her reason for walking in the Vietnam Veterans Day parade today in Shiprock.

Due to sentiment in the United States toward the Vietnam War in the '60s and '70s, veterans returning home often faced harsh criticism. A majority never received proper homecomings.

"It's time for us to represent my dad because he didn't get a good welcome back celebration. He had to walk home because no one was there to pick him up. When he told us that, we felt bad," Lynette Pablo said.

Later in the morning, Leonard Pablo Sr. stood alongside fellow Vietnam veterans and saluted the U.S. flag at the welcome home ceremony at the Northern Navajo Veterans Center.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez shakes hands with Vietnam War veteran Morris Johnson, who is one of four Purple Heart recipients named grand marshal of the Vietnam Veterans Day parade in Shiprock on Friday.

Spectators stood along the highway during the parade route from the Shiprock Chapter house to the veterans center.

They waved as floats went by, including one that carried Vietnam veterans and Purple Heart recipients Luke Begay, Perry Benally, Morris Johnson and Herman Kellywood, all named parade grand marshals.

San Juan Chapter member Donald Crosby and his family members rode horses in the parade.

The family's military service crosses generations and includes a World War II veteran and two veterans from the Vietnam War.

Second from left, Vietnam veterans Danny Clyde, Robin Wood and Leonard Pablo Sr. stand during the national anthem on Friday at the Vietnam Veterans Day event at the Northern Navajo Veterans Center in Shiprock.

"These days we live our freedom because of them," Crosby said.

This is the third year the Shiprock Agency of the Navajo Nation Veterans Administration organized the parade and ceremony.

It coincides with National Vietnam War Veterans Day, which recognizes veterans who served in the military during the Vietnam War.

"Welcome home, gentlemen. It's been a long time," said Wallace Charley, a Vietnam veteran and veteran service officer for the agency office.

San Juan Chapter member Hoskie Yazzie honors the military service of his three brothers during the Vietnam Veterans Day parade on Friday in Shiprock.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez commended the veterans for their dedication and sacrifice.

He added that their military service helped sustain the way of life for the Navajo people, who need to recognize that debt.

"I challenge each and every one of you to come and say thank you to your veterans. They are not hard to spot. They wear their hats, they wear their uniforms with pride," Nez said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

Farmington American Indian Ambassador Nikeisha Kee, third from left, waves to spectators on Friday during the Vietnam Veterans Day parade in Shiprock.