Greensboro, N.C. -- March 29, 2013 is the 40th anniversary of the day U.S. troops left Vietnam. But, did you know there is a Vietnamese community right here in the Triad?
They are called "Montagnards." One Greensboro pastor says Montagnards were like a real-life GPS for soldiers who would have otherwise gotten lost in the jungle. Years later, U.S. troops helped Montagnards move to America.
Thousands live in Greensboro. Why? Fort Bragg is one key reason. North Carolina has a strong history of military service and veterans have welcomed the Montagnards here.
Rev. Y'Hin Nie is now a Montagnard pastor in Greensboro. But, he still remembers life in Vietnam. "When Americans left Vietnam, Montagnards were very disappointed. We felt hopeless," Nie said.
Rev. Nie remembers American soldiers helping his family in Vietnam. Now, he feels lucky to live in America.
"We are so happy here. The land of freedom," Nie said.
Even though troops welcomed Montagnards here, many Americans did not welcome our men and women in uniform home.
Vietnam Veteran HM3 Tim Whitlatch, attached to the Marine Corps, said, "A lady came up to me and she asked if I was in Vietnam. I said, 'Yes.' She spit on me. Spat upon my uniform."
Vietnam Veteran Staff Sergeant Kaney Joyner said, "People would avoid you. You were treated like dirt."
This kind of reception seems almost unimaginable today.
"Vets today coming back deserve every recognition they can get," Joyner said.
Whitlatch added, "If you see a veteran or know a veteran, walk up and say, 'Thank You.'"
Forty years after the war, Vietnam Veterans have a special greeting when they see each other today: Welcome Home. Joyner says, " It's because we were never welcomed home."
Although much has changed in the United States, Rev. Nie says life remains the same in Vietnam.
"There are still people in prison. Still people persecuting each other," he said.