VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Every year, the NAS Oceana Air Show brings patriotism, excitement, and some of the Navy’s best pilots to Virginia Beach.
This year, there’s another, more somber reason to be at the show which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
“Growing up in a community where we’re always welcome, and we have wonderful homecomings from our deployments — that wasn’t always the case,” said Captain Lou Schager, Oceana’s commanding officer. “Here’s an opportunity where we have hundreds of thousands of people come out and recognize and thank these Vietnam veterans for their service, for their valor, and for their sacrifice.”
Retired Marine Corporal Les Page was one of the first this weekend to be honored by the Patriot Guard riders, and personally thanked by Schager.
“Every time, it’s heart-wrenching, because the first time I was ever thanked was in 1989,” said Page, who came back from Vietnam in 1967. “It was a long time. And now it comes frequently and it’s really unique.”
Page now dedicates much of his time to organizations like Quilts of Valor, which thank current and retired service members.
“It’s so heartwarming now to see the appreciation that service members get when they come home, because we didn’t have that,” Page said. “We got through it, and now we do everything that we possibly can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Schager says he asked the thousands of volunteers and sailors working the air show to make sure they thank every Vietnam veteran they see.
“I don’ t think we could ever get enough thanks. They were long overdue, and each and every one of them, we’re very grateful,” Page said.
Look for more ceremonies honoring veterans throughout the weekend at the 2015 NAS Oceana Air Show.