Fifth/Third LZ Michigan Welcome Home Event

A Hero’s Welcome, Long Overdue

July 15, 2010 // 0 Comments

5/3 Ballpark Hosts LZ Michigan, a welcome home for Vietnam vets By Matt Marn  A parade of motorcycle riders cruised into 5/3 Ballpark on a hot and sunny July 3 to kick off LZ Michigan, a reunion and welcome home for Vietnam veterans. LZ Michigan was also a chance for the community to show their gratitude for all the veterans went through and sacrificed for their country. LZ, a military slang term for “Landing Zone,” refers to a safe place for helicopters to land. That day, it meant a safe place to return to; a safe place to get the hero’s welcome they earned so long ago. The Michigan Traveling Memorial wall outside the stadium displayed and paid respects to all those killed and missing in Vietnam from the state of Michigan. Nearby tables, draped in black tablecloths and littered with tissue boxes, offered dozens of binders with names, ranks, pictures and stories of soldiers who paid the ultimate price. Ken McKay of Grand Rapids came to LZ Michigan with his wife, Joan, to remember the sacrifices made by soldiers in Vietnam. McKay is one such soldier, who spent his 21st birthday calling in F-4 Phantom airstrikes on military targets. “At the time, we hadn’t heard about all the demonstrations, we were just fighting,” McKay said. “We came back, and were called baby-killers.” The American people were, at times, unwelcoming upon the return of our soldiers after Vietnam, sometimes downright hostile. But LZ Michigan, McKay said, is a start to the healing process. “This is the best day that has ever happened to me.” McKay went through grade school, high school, even Boy Scouts, with his good friend Rod VanOeveren. They enlisted together, went through basic training and boot camp together, and were deployed into separate areas of combat. Later, when he was in the room calling in airstrikes at 21, McKay heard his name called across the room. He looked over to the man who was calling for him. It was VanOeveren, calling in naval targets himself. And when VanOeveren found McKay at LZ Michigan, the men shook hands and embraced, friends reunited once more. Stefanie Leiter brought her father-in-law, Lester Amburgey, a Vietnam veteran, to LZ Michigan to help show her gratitude. Having […]