ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky — Vietnam veterans gathered on what has become sacred ground in Elizabethtown to laugh, cry, and hear thanks from soldiers who came after them.

What You Need To Know

  • March 29 is Vietnam Veterans Day in the United States

  • Veterans met Monday at a replica of the black Vietnam War memorial wall in Washington, D.C.

  • 58,220 names on the memorial are etched in rows and stretch 360 feet

March 29 is Vietnam Veterans Day in the United States. Every speech that was given to the 50-plus veterans and each interview conducted by the media highlighted the fact that soldiers returning from Vietnam overwhelmingly received little public support at the end of the unpopular war.

Many Vietnam veterans have become troop greeters at airports where today's servicemen and women fly back from tours overseas, giving the level of support to others that they never garnered.

Debbie Sawyer recalled her experience as she returned from combat in Afghanistan in 2012.

"It was very touching and very emotional for me when I stepped off that plane," she said. "And it was your generation of veterans that made sure that didn’t happen to my generation. And you stood shoulder to shoulder in those airports."

They met Monday at a quiet plot of land that is home to a replica of the black Vietnam War memorial wall in Washington, DC. Though smaller than its predecessor, all 58,220 names are etched in rows and stretch 360 feet. 

Carey Christie, a Vietnam veteran, helped build the memorial. This day, for him, was about seeing friends and grieving together.

"You can see a veteran that’s still got their survivor’s guilt. And when they get up to that wall, one of us veterans will help go up there and talk to them," Christie said. "And you can see the guilt leave them when they finally touch that wall and get that healing and relief come out of them."

Gregory Bethards, president of the Louisville chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in an interview Monday that his generation of veterans is rapidly leaving us, and that it is crucial these men and women know their families and their country appreciate the sacrifices they made decades ago.

Each year, while they can, they’ll gather in Elizabethtown and be reminded that they are not forgotten.