ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Vietnam War came to an end 45 years ago and Rockford veterans wanted to honor their brothers and sisters that didn't make it home.
A war that lasted more than 10 years.
"It seems like yesterday that I left Vietnam," said the President for Vietnam Veterans Honor Society Nicholas Parnello. "It haunted me for a lot of years but with the brotherhood, with the veterans that are here locally, it healed a lot of those wounds."
April 30, 1975 signifies the fall of Saigon. But for many in Winnebago County the end of war meant something different.
"Every time we reflect on these 69 names that are behind me, it helps us be grateful. You know they never got to get married. They never got to have kids. They never got to go to school. We kind of touch their lives that we live for them," said Parnello.
"They're over 1,600 still missing in action and their families never got any closure. I don't know how many we have lost since the war due to complications with Agent Orange. It's a huge thing," said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Terry Coffman.
The Vietnam Veterans Honor Society held a ceremony at LZ Peace Memorial to pay tribute to the 58,000 American lives lost and commemorate a service that was once protested when veterans first returned home.
"They were spat on. They were called baby killers. That's why it's more important than ever to say thank you," said Coffman.
Connecting veterans and families together to share in their loss but gain appreciation for those who serve to protect us.
"We live for them because they couldn't and we are so grateful for that," said Parnello.
The Vietnam Veterans Honor Society also has a program called Operation Fallen Flags which connects and provides support for younger veterans.