Utah veterans honored on anniversary of day last American troops left Vietnam

SALT LAKE CITY -- On this day back in 1973, the last American combat unit was pulled out of Vietnam.

In commemoration of that event, dozens of Utah Vietnam Veterans were honored for their service at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday morning.

Soldiers of the future, students from the Utah Military Academy, honored their heroes from the past, Utah Vietnam Veterans, by singing the Star Spangled Banner in the Capitol Rotunda.

Many of these veterans were in uniform. They say they are proud now more than ever to have served.

“I'm glad that I served, back then I wasn’t, I wasn’t happy, I was really bitter, but I’m glad I did now, I respect that flag more now than I did when I was in the service," said Vietnam Army Veteran Steve Greer.

Vets say there was a time when they were afraid to even admit they fought in the war.

“When we come home we were called names, we were spit on, things were thrown at us, they told us to change out of our uniforms, put on civilian clothes," said Vietnam Air Force Veteran Norman Nelson.

Now, 44 years to the day the last combat unit left Vietnam, veterans say the appreciation and respect they receive everywhere they go couldn’t be more overwhelming.

“We go different places, people say, 'Well can we buy you a meal, thank you for your service, can we buy you a drink, what can we do to say thank you for what we have,'" Nelson said.

Outside on the Capitol lawn, veterans laid a wreath at the feet of the veterans' memorial in remembrance of all those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“Well we never forget those who passed on, we always remember them because it’s just the bond we feel for one another, you know," said Vietnam Army Veteran Lee Sanchez.

More than 58,000 American men and women died in the Vietnam war, and 366 of them were from Utah.