Vietnam veterans receive homecoming decades in the making

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG) - Late nights at the airport are typically quiet with red eye travelers making their way back home, but Wednesday night the lobby of Northwest Florida Beaches International was covered in American flags and even a red carpet for a homecoming years in the making.

Vietnam veterans Jan White and Byron Lester took a trip back to Vietnam to see how the country's changed. (WJHG)

Jan White and Byron Lester, both Vietnam veterans, were welcomed home with cheers and fanfare from their return trip to Vietnam.

They said they took the trip back to see the changes in the country where they served years ago.

They say it was a different atmosphere from when they came home the first time.

White said, "The last time we came home, we just came home. We didn't know what to do. I saw on television where people were being spit on. We were fighting two fronts, the one at home and the one over there, and that was the sad part. For this to take place almost 50 years later, it's exciting!"

Those welcoming the veterans home say they wanted to give them the homecoming they deserved but never received.

"I was kind of afraid for my traveling companion. I didn't know what he was going to do I thought he was going to run away," said White. "But it's overwhelming. Overwhelming is the only thing I can say."

Jan's son also made the trip to see some of the changes the country's made in the last few decades.

"I didn't know what to expect. When I left there I don't remember any high-rises, five-story buildings. Now there are buildings 35 stories high," said White.

The P.O.W flag synonymous with the Vietnam War reads "You are not Forgotten" and through the applause and a little Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jan and Byron surrounded by friends and family, never felt forgotten.

"I'm glad I'm home." said White. "This is where we need to be."

The years may have passed but the veterans love for their country and their family's love for them never wavered.

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