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Vietnam veterans ceremony gets new location

An event to honor Vietnam veterans has a new location, after veterans opposed a plan to hold it in the state veterans cemetery.

Saturday is New Hampshire’s first “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” – the state Legislature passed a law last year marking March 30 as a day to honor Vietnam veterans.

A ceremony was initially scheduled for Saturday afternoon, at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. That idea didn’t sit well with some Vietnam veterans. They voiced concern, and the event was moved to its rain location – the New Hampshire National Guard’s hangar at the Concord airport.

“We should be on Main Street, like at the State House, or someplace, rather than tucked away in the woods in a veterans cemetery,” said Jim Constantin, a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Concord. “It just doesn’t seem right to ‘welcome home’ people in a cemetery. It’s kind of like, morbid.”

Constantin and other veterans contacted officials and event organizers, and he wrote a letter that was published in the Monitor last week.

On Friday, he heard the ceremony’s venue had changed. Constantin was thrilled, and he’s looking forward to the event this weekend. As a member of the Air Force, the 64-year-old New Hampshire native served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1972. He has lived in the state and remained active in veterans’ organizations since his return home.

This year is the first time there has been a statewide day to honor service in Vietnam. It’s “a pretty big deal” to many veterans, Constantin said.

“This is a first one that’s been organized; the war ended 38 years ago,” he said.

A law passed last year requires the governor to make an annual declaration of March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.”

Constantin said he’s heard of at least 10 veterans’ groups whose members plan to attend Saturday’s ceremony, hosted by the New Hampshire National Guard. A spokesman for the Guard did not return a message left Friday afternoon.

The New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery has a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s a wonderful memorial, Constantin said, but not the proper setting for the state’s first “welcome home” event.

“It’s a very nice place to visit and so forth, but it is a cemetery,” he said.

The ceremony for Vietnam veterans will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. in the New Hampshire National Guard hangar at the Concord airport on Regional Drive.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

This is very good news. i agree. thanks for your service

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