Vietnam veteran finally gets honorable homecoming with Last Frontier Honor Flight

Outside the Gates
Outside the Gates
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When Don Adams checked in before boarding The Last Frontier Honor Flight back in April, he was both excited and emotional. Adams had never visited the war memorials in Washington D.C. before and had hopes of finding a few familiar names of fallen comrades — those he served alongside during the Vietnam War.

The Last Frontier Honor Flight is Alaska’s branch of the honor flight network, which offers roundtrip experiences to D.C. for veterans of war every spring and fall, prioritizing those who served in WWII, the Alaska Territorial Guard, the Korean War as well as the Vietnam War.

It was a whirlwind week for the 22 veterans that joined this particular flight, and it didn’t end when the wheels of the Alaska Airlines plane touched down on the tarmac at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

“I was just beyond surprised,” Adams said. “Trying to hold back the tears was hard — I’m so thankful. It’s something I will never forget and I’m glad I had my son with me.”

As the veterans emerged from the loading bridge at gate C5, it was a reception some of them had never experienced. Family members, friends, and members of The Last Frontier Honor Flight greeted and applauded each service member. A Color Guard and a team of bagpipers led the vets down the halls of the airport where hundreds of members of the public awaited their arrival, waving signs and flags of patriotism and support.

Adams never did find the names he was looking for but he did find something else — a chance to heal, and for the first time, an honorable homecoming as a veteran of war.

According to the Selective Service System, over 1.8 million men were drafted into the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1973, but those soldiers were met with a cold welcome upon returning home as many Americans morally opposed the country’s involvement.

“This was like coming home again, you know, brought back a lot of memories,” Adams said. “I felt like I was coming home for the first time from Vietnam.”

Adams’ son Seth, who was his guardian during the trip, said it was a privilege to accompany his father and witness him open up about his experience in Vietnam with the other veterans.

“They were never shown appreciation back, you know, when they came out of Vietnam,” Seth said. “I think a lot of that got turned into a feeling of being proud, you know, that they had served.”

The Last Frontier Honor flight planned for October of this year will mark the 10-year anniversary of the organization.