GILLETTE, Wyo. – Vietnam veterans may not have gotten the hero’s welcome they deserved when they returned home years ago, but it’s something they can look forward to next week at Rozet Elementary School.
On March 30, students, staff, and veterans alike will assemble at Rozet Elementary for a ceremony in celebration of Wyoming Veteran’s Welcome Home Day, a statewide day of recognition for veterans declared by Gov. Mark Gordon in 2011.
According to event organizer Emily Brinegar Driskill, a fourth-grade educator at Rozet Elementary, it’ll be the tenth year that the school has taken it upon itself to welcome home all veterans, especially those who fought in the Vietnam War.
She said that Vietnam veterans didn’t get the same reception as other veterans when they returned home from overseas, and the celebration looks to extend that “welcome home” they never received.
While the celebration is technically for all veterans, Brinegar Driskill said the majority of participants over the years have been Vietnam veterans and their families.
“It’s really helped (Vietnam veterans) heal over the years,” she said, adding that the celebration differs from Veteran’s Day in that it’s not thanking them for their service, but rather pulling them back into the fold with welcoming arms.
It’s something Rozet Elementary has done every year since 2011 with the exception of a brief hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brinegar Driskill said, who said she volunteered to organize the effort years ago when an interim principal brought the topic to the table following Gordon’s declaration.
“It was literally two weeks away, but my dad’s a Vietnam veteran and so I said ‘yeah, actually, like, I’ll do it,’” she said. “And it just kind of blew up from there.”
Teachers and principals may come and go, but the welcome home celebration is one thing that Rozet Elementary has always embraced, Brinegar Driskill said, adding that the students seem to look forward to and love the celebration.
“They’re patriotic,” Brinegar Driskill said. “They love showing their patriotism.”
This year, the event starts at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, with the members from the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Marine Corps League presenting the colors. Retired Army Colonel Denton Knapp has been invited as a guest speaker and with additional presentations and performances from the Rozet Elementary student body.