TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Veterans Day has been a bittersweet occasion for many Vietnam veterans simply because there were no parades for the soldiers who fought the war -- many Americans wanted to forget. But 40 years after the fall of Saigon, veterans of Southeast Asia are being properly recognized.
More than 1,500 Floridians lost their life in Vietnam. Their names are memorialized at a memorial on the grounds of the state capitol. ROTC cadets will stand guard at the memorial overnight in honor of those who served.
Warren Sutton was an aircraft mechanic in Vietnam.
"When I first came home and landed in California, I was spit upon," he said.
His experience was not unlike thousands of others.
But this year, Vietnam veterans are being honored through a documentary being shown at the Florida State University Student Veterans Film Festival.
Abby Kince, the Collegiate Veterans Association president, said it's about time Vietnam vets got the recognition they deserve.
"You know, they made the promise, never gain, and we are owning up to that and stand with them," she said.
Half a million Vietnam vets call Florida home. For many, the stigma lives on. But the state began offering a specialty Vietnam plate in 2012.
Just one half of 1 percent of Florida's Vietnam vets have asked for the plate. The rest have said no, even though there is no extra charge.
Marine Gen. Larry Snowden fought in WWII, Korea and commanded 3,000 troops in Vietnam. While he didn't face the scorn his men did, he said the recognition of their bravery is long overdue.
"You can dislike a war without disliking the troops, and I think people have finally come to that conclusion," Snowden said. "That's the way it ought to be. When I go to war, I want people to hate the fact that I have to go, but I don't want them to hate me for going."
One in three of the million and a half vets who call Florida home served in Vietnam.
The research from "The Greatest Generation," a book on WWII heroes, was given to Florida State University by NBC news anchor and writer Tom Brokaw. Since then, the university has been billing itself as the most veteran-friendly university in America.
Monday, on his first day on the job, new FSU President John Thrasher said he would continue the commitment to veterans.
"You know, I'm a veteran. I served in the United States Army. I served in Vietnam. I think our veterans are incredibly important to us, and I think at Florida State we truly want to make sure we are the most veteran-friendly university in the county," Thrasher said. "I think we're taking great steps and making great strides in doing that."
One incentive for veterans is that no matter where their legal residence is located, if they live in Florida they pay in-state tuition rates.