NEW ORLEANS — About 2,000 American and South Vietnamese veterans who served in the Vietnam War marched together Sunday, many of them in their old uniforms, in a procession of small groups that stretched over two miles through the city.
Each group was made up of members of a service branch, including U.S. Rangers, U.S. Air Force, Vietnamese Navy and Vietnamese Marines.
Retired Army Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who was commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968, and former South Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Cao Ky served as marshals for the procession.
Called 'Historic Event'
"This is an historic event and the beginning of other historic events between U.S. and Vietnamese veterans," Westmoreland told the marchers.
Ky, who served as a South Vietnamese general, the country's vice president and its premier before the country's fall to Communist forces in 1975, called for the liberation of Vietnam, saying 90% of the people in the Southeast Asian nation reject the current government.
"We must free and unify all Vietnam," Ky said before the parade began. "They are waiting for us in North Vietnam. To make Vietnam free again is not only a dream but a duty and a responsibility."
He said the people of Vietnam "realize after 12 years that this is not the way of life they want."
Dennis Wood, 40, of Dayton, Ohio, walked from Dayton to New Orleans to take part in the weekend activities, sponsored by the Vietnamese community in the city.
He said that he had walked from Ohio to publicize the plight of veterans he believes still are missing in action or held prisoner in Southeast Asian countries.
Was Cavalry Sergeant
Wood, who was a sergeant in the 17th Air Cavalry Division and served in 1967 and 1968, said that it was an honor to be invited to march with other American and Vietnamese veterans.
"This is where we gain our inner strength, our inner peace, from within the ranks of our fellow veterans," Wood said.
Wood also walked from Dayton to Los Angeles and then to Houston to take part in similar parades.
During his trek, people offered "a lot of thumbs up, salutes, honks," he said. "I did it to get people to ask me why and what I was doing."