A glimpse of history took place on Saturday in Charlotte County. Vintage planes from World War II, Korea and Vietnam took flight to commemorate the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans 2020 event.
A parade beginning at Port Charlotte Beach Park kicked-off the event on Saturday morning. There were more than 600 participants and floats, three marching bands from local high schools, dignitaries, marchers, Vietnam-era military vehicles, Huey helicopters in the air and veterans who served during combat.
The route went from Harbor Boulevard to Edgewater Drive and ended at the new William R. Gaines Jr. Veterans Memorial Park. Pilots in vintage war planes and Huey helicopters flew overhead and continued on to the Charlotte Sports Park for a full day of activities.
“This event is for vets of the Vietnam era because very few of them were thanked for their service upon returning home,” said Sam Taylor, veteran and organizer of the parade.
The parade featured Grand Marshal and Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient Melvin Morris, Gen. Dick Carr, a member of the first graduating Air Force Academy Class, and retired Lt. Wayne Smith, a jet pilot downed in North Vietnam and a POW for five years.
“Dick (Carr) and Wayne (Smith) were both very influential in bringing the Vietnam Memorial Wall to Punta Gorda,” said Steve Lineberry, spokesperson for Welcome Home Vets 2020.
A Walk of Honor was staged near home plate inside the Charlotte Sports Park. Those who wished to honor a loved one made banners that included the veteran’s name, photo and military branch.
“I appreciate the support people are showing today,” said veteran Ron Corbielle, who attended the event at the sports complex. “I watched many of my friends die over there while trying to keep our country free. It’s important that people remember that some gave all.”
Live entertainment featured local bands and Lee Greenwood, known for his patriotic song “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Entry to the event was free for all veterans and $20 for the general public.
For more information, go to www.welcome homevietnamvets2020.org.