Bristol Vintage Car Show Paid Tribute to Vietnam Veterans
A dedicated group of Vietnam War veterans recently gathered in Bristol, Rhode Island to put on the War Veterans Tribute Cruise In, an assemblage of over 300 various types of classic vehicles and motorcycles.
"This show is to remind the men and women who went to Vietnam that we haven't forgotten them, and we're showing them that they'll never be left behind in our memories," said Jeremiah O'Connor, one of the original organizers.
Over a thousand people meandered about, many of them experiencing a kind of camaraderie that's reserved for battle buddies.
"Nobody says no," reflected Bob Bramwell, another of the earliest members, who refers to himself as "the official donut and coffee guy." "We're giving back to these guys, many you see in wheelchairs, because the good Lord spared our lives. How can we say no? Most of these guys were boots on the ground, the other half didn't make it back."
This event is different than Vietnam War Veteran's Day, celebrated on March 29. That honors the last day U.S. combat units withdrew from Vietnam, which put an end to one of America's longest, hostile conflicts in this country's history.
Ronald and Eleanor Bullard of New Bedford were showing their classic vehicle at the car show. "I was a foreman at Rodney Metals for 38 years, and I remember most of these Vietnam soldiers were treated badly and faced insults when they returned home," he said. "Nowadays, we say 'thank you for your service,' but these guys returned to New Bedford being called baby killers and war mongers."
Freetown's Bob Foquette, owner of Big Wheels, whose two giant rotators held a waving 50-foot American flag, said he remembers Vietnam soldiers giving the peace signal to civilians – and instead of getting the two peace fingers, they got the middle finger.
The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 58,000 American service members and wounded more than 150,000. Vietnam vets weren't celebrated with any of the ticker-tape parades, and received none of the concessions bestowed upon World War II's "greatest generation." But they are commemorated by the tried-and-true comrades of the War Veterans Tribute Cruise In.