Tim Davis’ first homecoming from Vietnam wasn’t a celebration, but rather a stinging reminder of the turmoil of the 1960s.
“I was spit on three times,” Davis said, recalling his return to the United States in 1968.
But as Davis, 63, returned to Fort Wayne on Monday from a two-week visit to Vietnam, his welcome home was far better than his first tense return.
In the hours leading up to his flight home, hundreds of friends, family and supporters gathered at the Fort Wayne International Airport.
“Thank you for gathering to welcome Tim home to the country that took so much away from him,” said Pat Brase, chaplain for the Indiana Patriot Guard, as he welcomed the crowd.
At about 8:45 p.m., other passengers made their way off the plane and veterans grabbed flags and lined up outside the door.
Some held colorful signs with “Welcome Home Tim” written in red, white and blue. Others waited on motorcycles, lined up by the dozen.
Still more filled the terminal area, waiting with excitement to welcome home a hero.
Davis, who was restricted to a wheelchair after he lost both legs during the war, made his way down the escalator, not knowing that hundreds waited for him below.
Tears brimmed his eyes as he rolled into the baggage claim area.
For a moment, all was silent. Then cheers erupted throughout the room.
“Who set this up,” Davis asked, pausing for a hug from one of his supporters. “Who did this?”
Pat Frazier, also a Vietnam veteran, said he came out to support Davis because he understood what it was like to feel unwelcomed after the war, so he was glad to see him smile on Monday.
“He’s just a brother,” Pat Fraizer said. “I don’t have to know him. He’s been through enough.”
Davis, a 1967 South Whitley High School graduate, lost both of his legs on May 13, 1968, when he accidentally detonated a bomb.
Since then, he’s had dreams that haunted him about his time at war – memories about brothers and sisters who died while serving their country.
Davis and his wife and daughter, made a return trip to Vietnam on May 4 to visit some of the places he’d seen decades ago.
“I wanted to get some closure and sleep a little better than I have been,” he said.
Once outside, Davis climbed into a restored 1967 M151A1 vehicle and departed for Columbia City. Along the way, a few stops were planned before the motorcade arrived at New Hope Wesleyan Church for a reception.
Davis said this welcome home was more than he ever expected.
“I never knew I had that much family. It means a lot to me,” he said.
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