Service members from Vietnam War might get state ‘working holiday’PIERRE — Starting next year, March 30 could be a working holiday in South Dakota called Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Starting next year, March 30 could be a working holiday in South Dakota called Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.
A contingent of Vietnam vets attended a legislative hearing on the proposal Wednesday. A working holiday means the Legislature recognizes the day as special but government offices remain open.
Phil Braeger, of Watertown, said he served in Vietnam in 1961 as a member of the U.S. Army and came home to what he said was indifference.
“There was no parade. There was no welcome-back. There was no anything,” Braeger said. “I don’t know anyone who regrets our service, but there was never an honor.”
Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown, sponsored SB 83. He acknowledged it might seem like “a little bill” within the scope of the legislative session. “But it’s a little bill that means a lot to a lot of people,” he said.
The Vietnam Veterans Association of America requested the designation. The final U.S. troops left Vietnam on March 29 but they didn’t reach the United States until March 30.
Don Pasch, of Watertown, said his older brother was burned to death in a tank “in ’68 on Mother’s Day.”
“I was 6 when my brother left and I was 8 when he was killed,” he said. “It’s very emotional for me to talk about my brother.”
Dennis Brenden, of Watertown, who is adjutant for the South Dakota American Legion, said 37 percent of the veterans organization served in Vietnam He was a U.S. Marine combat veteran at age 18 there.
“I seen things that shouldn’t be seen by anybody,” Brenden said. “I did things that shouldn’t be done by anybody.”
The Senate State Affairs Committee heard from several other veterans during a tense 15 minutes of testimony. No one spoke against the designation.
“I actually only have two words: Thank you,” Sen. Corey Brown, RGettysburg, said.
The vote was 9-0 to recommend the legislation’s passage. The room applauded.
The bill could be up for consideration by the full Senate as early as Friday afternoon.