Thursday, April 5, 2012

North Carolina's Vietnam Vets Celebration

I cannot believe how fast time flies.  I am sooo far behind in reading blogs and posting.  I know I have missed a lot and will try to catch up. 

A week ago today, March 29th, we left Spring Hill RV Park in Chapel Hill, where we have been parked since January, and headed to Charlotte.  We are members of the American Military Retirees Ass'n (AMRA) and were asked to man a table for AMRA at the Welcome Home Vietnam Vets celebration held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 31st.

As most of you probably remember, our Vietnam Vets were not exactly given a warm welcome when they returned home from the Vietnam War.  There were numerous demonstrations.  Some were pelted with rocks and some were even spat on.  Back then, many were very young and were drafted, not having a choice to join the military like they do today.  So North Carolina's USO decided it was time to give these vets and their families the thanks they so deserved and what a celebration it was.

We had reservations at the Tom Johnson Camping Center Racing Resort Campground.  

It looks like we are all by ourselves, but the truth is the campground began to really fill up on Friday -- we were just too busy to take pictures.

On Friday morning, we didn't know exactly where or what we were supposed to do, so we made our way to the Speedway to the Ticket Office.

...where we were told we needed "credentials."  We had name tags but nothing else.  They sent us to Gate 4...nobody was there to help -- but we did get our first look at the track.

And all the preparation activities

We also saw the Oakridge Boys Motorhome
...And their trailer

They gave a private concert on Friday night to the sponsors of the event and special VIPs.

Finally, we met a couple of ladies with the USO who hooked us up.  Soon we had our "Vendor" tag for our car and wrist bracelets.  

We went to the gift shop and bought commemorative shirts to wear on Saturday and then went back to the Motorhome to pick up our three boxes of information and our table.  We then headed to Gate 26 where we showed our official credentials and were told exactly where to go.  We unpacked our boxes and assembled our table.

We were up and out the door early Saturday morning.  We needed to be in place before our gate was locked at 8:00.  It rained most of Friday night and was still raining when we headed out the door.

Because of the overcast sky, it was still pretty dark when we arrived at the Nationwide Garage.

All set and ready to go

Over 62,000 veterans and their families were in attendance.

This was the display directly behind us.  It has the names of all the military working dogs killed in Vietnam.

And the names of the dog handlers killed
We had no idea there were so many.

The missing man's table
The missing man's table was first enacted by the Defense POW-MIA Personnel Office at the Pentagon in an Honors Ceremony of Remembrance in 2005.  The table is set for six, representing the five branches of our armed forces...Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corp and Coast Guard...and civilians, and symbolizes the missing  are with us in spirit.  The description explains as follows: 

 "The military is filled with symbolism.  This table is our way of symbolizing members of our profession who are missing from our midst.  They are commonly called POWs/MIAs.  We call them brothers.  They are unable to be with us, and so, we remember them today.  This table, set for six, is small, symbolizing the fragility of the prisoners alone against their oppressors.  The table cloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms.  The single rose displayed in the vase is symbolic of the families and loved ones who keep the faith, waiting for their return.  The red ribbon, tied so prominently on the vase, is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breast of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of those left behind on foreign soil.  The slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of their bitter fate.  There is salt on the plate, symbolizing the families' tears as they wait.  The glasses are empty.  Our brothers are not here.  The chairs are empty.  Our brothers are not here.  Remember all of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aide, and relied upon them...for surely, they have not forgotten you...ALWAYS REMEMBER.  May God bless all of those who serve."  Written by Kathy Lucas-Benfield

I know this was long, but I thought it was important to share the symbolism behind the missing man's table.

I have never seen this truck on the highway
Dale Earnhardt, Jr's car
Jimmie Johnson's car hauler
Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall

Charlie Daniels' Bus
Of course Uncle Sam was there too
Presentation of flags from all 50 states
Marine Corp Band
Remembering a dad he never knew
Jumping from a plane
Charlie Daniels

The great day ended with the Charlie Daniels' Band playing and singing, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Thanks to the USO

We came away more appreciative of our military and the sacrifices they and their families have made and are making every day.  It was nice to put the RDU area in our rear-view mirror and get back to a more normal life.  

If you are a veteran, or have a family member who has served or currently serving, we salute you and your family and thank you for your service to our country.  May God continue to bless our voyage as we continue our journey and may God bless our family, friends and fellow-bloggers.  


  1. I found the Missing Man's Table very moving...

  2. What an interesting day you had. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. thanks for sharing the tribute to all the Vets!

  4. I have read of several of these events recently. It's a wonderful gesture and perhaps overdue. Thank you for participating and thank you to all the vets. Thank you for sharing the entire story of the missing man's table. Very meaningful.

  5. What a wonderful event to be a part of! Thanks for sharing all the details...and thanks for your service. :-)

  6. What a fun place to be and what a great tribute to our vets. They certainly deserve respect and gratitude for their commitment.

  7. A great tribute to a lot of veteran's who seem to have been unjustly forgotten by many.

  8. Thank you for that post and thank you for your service.

    1. Please forgive me but this new reply button has me curious. Just trying to see how it works. Thanks for letting me experiment.