LAKE HALLIE, Wisc. (WEAU) - Decades after returning home, Vietnam veterans were honored for their service.
Dozens of vets gathered in Lake Hallie Eagle's Club for its fourth annual Vietnam Veterans Day Community Event to share stories, teach the public and remember those who served.
Purple Heart recipients and Hmong fighter pilots got special recognition with WEAU's Judy Clark serving as the master of ceremonies.
George Adrian spent 14 months in hospitals after suffering shrapnel wounds to his chest and shoulder from a booby trap in Vietnam as a specialist in the Army. Although he did receive a Purple Heart, he said he didn't immediately get a hero's welcome.
"Going through the airports, the first time I went through them, I wore my uniform, because I was proud that I was in the service and that I served my county, and you got so much grief from the people in the airports. After that, I just quit wearing it, and I wore civilian clothes whenever I traveled, just because I didn't want people to know that I was a veteran," he said. "They called you murderers and baby killers and stuff like that. You didn't need that."
Koua Xiong and Phong Yang said they're still waiting to be fully recognized for serving as fighter pilots during the Vietnam War. Trained by Americans as allies from Laos they were two of 38 Hmong pilots to fly T-28 fighter planes, and only 14 are still living.
"Our role is to help the Americans, to support the Americans fight the communists," Yang said. "The only thing now we want now is we want the United States to get us full recognition. That's what we want now.
"Just recognize us as a part of the United States Air Force," Xiong said.
With the Vietnamese looking to kill any American allies after the war, Xiong and Yang said they moved to the U.S. were misunderstood and disrespected.
"Most of the people still (questioned) why we are here ... you just don't feel good at all (hearing that)," Yang said.
But on Saturday, they along with the American Vietnam vets were honored for their sacrifice at a ceremony in Lake Hallie that also gave them a chance to reconnect and teach younger generations.
"It's great for us but I think it's brought about an awareness for the new vets," Adrian said.
"We should do this more often. Like at least once a year or twice a year, to remember the past and to hear what we have in our hearts. I think it's a good start," Yang said.
"Don't hate the warrior, hate the war," Adrian said.