Apr 3, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterAn extended warm welcome was given to war veterans, young and old, Monday at the REACH Foundation Club House in Riverton as part of Wyoming Welcome Home Day. Related ceremonies took place in Sheridan, Afton and Rock Springs.
"(They) were not given the proper thanks and welcome home that they deserved," Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said. "It's a small thing that we can do that hopefully means a lot to the vets."
The arrival of Mead and the Wyoming Veterans Commission drew a big crowd of veterans, families, city officials and community members of Riverton and surrounding areas. In the absence of a proper welcome for Wyoming veterans who returned from the Korean War, Vietnam War and other wars, the welcome home day was created to present veterans with praise, gratitude, recognition and special remarks from accompanying and local dignitaries.
"This nation is better because you served it," said Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, the adjutant general of Wyoming.
"We're indebted to them for their sacrifice," Mead said. "Welcome home and thank you for a job well done."
The hard work and long days away from home were remembered by the speakers who acknowledged the duty of serving a nation for the benefit of freedom.
Lee Alley of Wheatland, the vice chairman of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, described the people in the room as an "overflowing crowd" who deserved an official welcome home after many, at some point, were "holding a bleeding and dying comrade (during) the dark moments in (the) nation's history."
Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness described the welcoming as "well past due" and "really appreciated."
"It brings back a lot of memories and emotion," he said while speaking with a soldier he served with in the Vietnam War.
Riverton resident Melvin Rosenberg, who was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, agreed with the mayor that the welcoming was past due but added that he was "happy it finally happened."
Lyle Wadda, a commissioner with the Wyoming Veterans Commission and a Wind River Indian Reservation resident, said that although the room was filled with many veterans, the celebration also was extended to the many more who didn't make it the event.
"This is just a small group of veterans," Wadda said. "But this is a good event officially welcoming them."
Mead described Riverton as a "patriotic town" that set a "good example" for the celebration of such an important day.
"Riverton well represents the state in terms of the group that turned out, (and) the wonderful organization that did this event," Mead said. "(I) thank Riverton for the support that they showed today."
The next stop for the governor and the commission was Afton on a day that would end in Rock Springs with the same message disseminated to those communities and their war veterans.
"It takes a proper thanks to be given to those who served our country," Mead said. "Hopefully it means a lot to them."
This was the third year the welcome home day was celebrated after it was first codified into state law during the 61st legislative session.