LYNN — When Robert Quinn returned home from Vietnam in 1967, there was no ticker tape parade, welcome celebrations or thank yous for his service.
Instead, he was met by a public who had grown weary of the conflict and wanted the U.S. to end its involvement in the Southeast Asia nation.
“The day after I came back from Vietnam, there was an anti-war rally in Wakefield which I attended in uniform with a fellow vet,” recalled Quinn, 71. “It was frightening. The protesters called us baby killers and we left pretty quick. It was very hard to take.”
The tone was much different on Friday as a crowd gathered in the City Hall lobby to honor Vietnam veterans and the 19 Lynn natives who made the ultimate sacrifice. The city celebrated the 45th anniversary of the war’s end by hailing its vets.
Michael Sweeney, director the Veterans’ Services and an Afghanistan War veteran, said the way Viet vets when treated when they came home can never be corrected.
“We know how difficult it was for many to return home,” he said. “But we in Lynn will do our part to make sure you know that we have never forgotten your service and we honor you.”
Mayor Thomas M. McGee declared April 6 Vietnam Veterans Day in the city and said how important it is to honor all veterans.
State Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) recognized the veterans in the room for the sacrifices they made. He gave a shout out to the Lynn teens from SkillsUSA, a national program whose mission is to empower its members to become leaders.
State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) said Vietnam veterans were not appreciated when they returned from combat, but hopefully that attitude has changed.
“It’s great that we are joining them today and their spouses,” he said.
City Councilor Peter Capano, an Army veteran, said we should never forget the sacrifices made by veterans.
“We are here to honor you for your service to our country,” he said.
David Barrios, a 17-year-old student from Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, was on hand along with a dozen members of SkillsUSA.
“We wanted to be here to show our support,” he said. “Veterans give so much of their lives so we can be home safe.”