Steve Presley, West Point Class of ’72 and a career soldier retired in the Branson/Lakes areas, and Gary Linderer, a decorated Vietnam Veteran and published author on the Vietnam War, were co-founders of this event.
“Gary and I kept noticing the absence of Vietnam Vets at the various veteran events we were both involved in supporting,” Presley said. “Talking with Gary helped me understand why the men and women who served so heroically in Vietnam were staying away from these celebrations. As a nation we had not given Vietnam Vets the recognition they had earned. So we decided to give them the homecoming they never received.”
National support had to be garnered for an event of this magnitude. “We approached leaders of industry, sports, education and government,” said Linderer. “And the response was overwhelming. Mr. Ross Perot, an acclaimed veterans advocate and benefactor, served on our Board of Directors and made this project a reality. Jim Amos, former CEO of Mail Boxes etc. and Chairman and CEO of Sona International Corp served on the board from the project’s inception. Jackie Smith, NFL Hall of Fame tight end, shared our enthusiasm and offered his assistance as a national spokes person for the event.”
“This project took off because it was the right time, the right place, and the right thing to do,” said Presley. “We needed to honor those brave men and women who answered their country’s call during a very difficult time in our nation’s history. By honoring their service, we passed a legacy of duty, honor and country to our American sons and daughters who will be called to serve in other difficult conflicts still to come.”