will proudly host the 2012 Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day (WHVVD) at the Riverwalk next month. Connecticut became the second state in the nation to pass legislation recognizing WHVVD, and an annual celebration for veterans, their families and the community aims to toast and host the country's bravest, and remember the fallen, with food, fun and games for all ages.
"I call this a celebration-slash-healing," said WHVVD Committee member (and member) Jay Francino-Quinn. "The back story is that in 2004, a Vietnam medic by the name of Jose Ramos was getting tired of the way Vietnam Vets were being treated. He was also worried about the way returning Vets are being treated. He got a petition together, got on a bike and rode from California to Washington, DC., knocked on his state senator’s office, and a few years later he was successful and WHVVD was recognized in California."
The inaugural historical state celebration was held at Cheshire High School on April 10, 2011. This year, it will be held in Shelton on May 19 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a rain date of May 20. The event is free and open to the entire community. Alcohol is not permitted.
"There were about 2,000 people in attendance last year, and we expect at least that many, if not even more, to show up this year," Francino-Quinn said.
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As for the fun, games and food? Francino-Quinn said food will be served in the Farmers' Market pavilion, arts and craft vendors will have items on display and for sale, patriotic activities will be available for kids (as well as a bounce house!), and monster trucks, motorcycles and antique cars will attract the gear heads.
The event flyer (included in media files) also boasts live music from "One Night Stands" and Karen Wagner.
To honor those who have served, there will be a fly-over by two helicopters and a Ukrainian fighter jet. At the conclusion of the day's events, the Committee will be doing The Last Roll Call.
"Whenever troops come back from combat, there is a roll call for each squadron," Francino-Quinn explained. "If someone was killed in action, their name will be called a couple different times, at which point the squadron leader will say their name, rank and where they were killed in duty."
As a final touch to this closing ceremony, Francino-Quinn said a few people "appropriately dressed in Vietnam jungle fatigues" will make an entrance through smoke as a gesture of respect and honor.
While the focus is on Vietnam veterans, the day will also celebrate those involved in Korea, World Wars I and II, Iraq, Afghanistan and Desert Storm.
"This is a very open thing meant to thank people," Francino-Quinn said. "We really just want to say, 'Hey, welcome home, brother!' and show appreciation."