Veterans honored with parade and flyover at Charlotte Sports Park

Reporter: Gail Levy
Published: Updated:
FILE: Veterans and their loved ones gathered Monday in Punta Gorda to honor the fallen. (Credit: WINK News)

The Vietnam veterans fought for us and fought for us hard, but when they came home, they didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

Veterans remember getting off the plane and being yelled at and spit a, and even trying to change out of their uniform before people saw them.

Phil Jelen of Englewood recalled, “When I got off the plane at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, I took my uniform off and snuck into the city. Isn’t that amazing? Fought and almost died for this country and to come back here in 1967 and go through that treatment.”

Now throughout the last week, vets are being remembered and honored for their fight for our country.

On Saturday, at the Charlotte Sports Park, there will be a parade with more than 600 people and 50 units.

It will feature the grand marshall, Sergeant First Class Melvin Morris.

Starting at 9 a.m. Huey helicopter rides will take flight for the veterans. Just a few ways to say thank you – a thank you they’ve waited to hear.

“We’re the only group of men who put up with worse surroundings on a daily basis and came back here and were treated unjustly,” Jelen explained. “But you know what, it never got to the men who made it here and are alive today and we want to keep it that way.”

Rick McCool of Seminole said, “I look at that wall over there and I see fathers and mothers and families who have given so much to this country, and the blood that was shed there in Vietnam. And that’s my era. I pray to God for grace and mercy upon them.”

Five registered veterans, chosen at random, get to meet & greet ‘God Bless the USA’ singer Lee Greenwood.

And for the first time here locally, organizers are remembering the fallen in a remarkable way.

Since Monday, more than 40 volunteers have read the names of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice – all 58,318 them.

People drove from all over the state to volunteer to read the names of these men and women.

It took 65 hours and they wrapped up on Friday.

And on Saturday, they’re honoring their fight with a flyover by Warbirds around 2 p.m. with the singing of the national anthem, all at the Charlotte Sports Park.

Admission is free for veterans and $20 dollars for general admission.

Click HERE for more event information.

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