March 29th, 2014 at 8am

The Vietnam War Memorial, at the corner of Ocean View Blvd. and Honolulu Ave. in Montrose, is very special to Montrose and to our nation because it is the first Vietnam War Memorial in the country. The memorial was dedicated on Friday, June 14, 1968 during the height of the Vietnam War and contains the names of local fallen soldiers who lived in Montrose, Glendale, La Crescenta, La Canada and the Sunland-Tujunga areas. California Congressman, David Dryer, officially recognized the memorial in Montrose as the very first Vietnam War Memorial in the United States. The memorial in Montrose was the dream of three prominent businessmen in Montrose, Don Carpenter, publisher-editor of the now out-of-print Crescenta Valley Ledger, Frank Roberts, known as “Mr. Montrose”, and Vito Cannella. They were instrumental in getting permission from the City of Glendale to move forward with the installation of the memorial in Montrose. Paul Roberts, Frank’s son said, “Dad was proud of this memorial and didn’t worry about what the public would have said about the project.” Steve Carpenter, Don’s son said, "Dad and Frank just decided they had to do this. They didn’t really think about what people thought."

Here in Montrose, at the site of the nation’s first Vietnam War Memorial, we hold an Annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Ceremony near the March 29th date. It is a chance for our local Veterans, many of them Vietnam Veterans, to remember this war specifically and for the public to give thanks to those that served and gave their life. The political and social turmoil of the times reached those serving overseas in the Vietnam War and once they returned it was clear that there would be no “Welcome Home” celebration.

After all these years, those emotional wounds may not be fresh, but they are still tender. “[Vietnam] veterans came home and no one said ‘thank you,’” said Warren Spayth, a Vietnam Veteran who lives in the area. “If you were in uniform, it was bad. Yes, [some] would spit on veterans. There was definitely no celebration.” He added that many of the Vietnam veterans, and those who knew history, remembered the ticker-tape parades for returning World War II soldiers. Spayth said that was a different war, but soldiers in Vietnam were fighting for their country, too, and most thought the behavior toward returning veterans unjust.

In 2004, California Representative Linda Sanchez heard about this and took the cause to acknowledge Vietnam Veterans to the nation’s capitol in Washington DC. In 2006, the U.S. Congress and Senate unanimously passed resolutions proclaiming March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” (WHVVD). In 2009, California became the first state to pass legislation recognizing March 30 as WHVVD. Finally, in 2012 the White House signed an executive order proclaiming March 30 as Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day. The White House chose the date of March 30, the date when the last combat troops left Vietnam.

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day Ceremony March 29th, 2014 at 8am.