Broadcasters across North Carolina are thanking veterans of the Vietnam War for their service in a significant way with an all-day event planned for March 31, along with a telecast that most TV stations across the state, and the majority of radio outlets, plan to air live. "Welcome Home" will be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with perhaps 40,000 spectators checking out musical performances, a motorcycle parade, parachutists and speeches from war heroes and stars. A moment of silence will be observed to remember those killed in action.
The USO of North Carolina is crafting the live event.
The inspiration for Welcome Home came from WXII Greensboro's Flight of Honor program, which saw the station reach out to the market's World War II veterans, and fly them to Washington to visit the War Memorial and meet with their elected representatives. Moved by the initiative, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is working with the broadcast community to do something special for Vietnam veterans as well.
"North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, the USO of North Carolina and the Charlotte Motor Speedway, working with Senator Richard Burr's office, are coming together to give those who served our country a proper homecoming," says John Idler, incoming president of North Carolina Association of Broadcasters (NCAB) and WTVD Raleigh's president and general manager.
Some 200,000-plus North Carolina residents served in the war. The region is rich in military families; President Obama was at Fort Bragg Wednesday to thank troops and signal the end of the U.S. military's mission in Iraq.
The state's broadcasters will reach out to Vietnam veterans, and invite them to the event, through a series of PSAs. The large majority of stations will then air the event live 2-3 p.m. March 31. "We plan to blanket the state with coverage," says NCAB outgoing president Danny Highsmith.
Organizers are in talks with A-list Hollywood talent about performing in Charlotte.
Broadcasters have increased their efforts of late to thank Vietnam vets for their service, and help make up for the harsh treatment many received after returning home from the war. Wisconsin Public Television saluted its state's war veterans with a similar event at Lambeau Field in May of 2010, with several public and commercial stations across the state airing a documentary about Wisconsin's Vietnam veterans.
NCAB officials are hoping to have all NC TV stations on board with the program. "We've had terrific buy in from member stations," says Idler.
Additional reporting by John Eggerton.