ST. LOUIS – The thousands of people gathered in downtown St. Louis Tuesday got the chance to say 'thank you' to those who may have never had a hero's welcome.
Tuesday, those veterans marched through the streets of St. Louis. Decades ago, many of them were tromping through the jungles of Vietnam.
"We had a job to do and just tried to stay safe," said Vietnam veteran Allen Jaffe.
Jaffe served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. And, after spending all those months dreaming of home, his homecoming, was a nightmare.
"It was not pleasant, they called us baby killers. We didn't really have a welcome home, it was that era," said Jaffe.
That era, is what spurred Rocky Sickmann to help drive the effort to give the thousands of visiting veterans a proper "hero's welcome." Rocky says it's what he received when he returned to St. Louis in 1981, after spending 444 days as a hostage in Iran. And he says, the welcome he received is what every veteran deserves.
"Knowing what I got and hearing the stories of what they got, it's sad," said Sickmann.
So, as the current Director of Military Sales for Anheuser Busch, Rocky helped lead the charge for Tuesday's parade.
"We as Americans cannot forget that freedom is not free," said Sickmann.
The cost includes the thousands of Americans who lost their lives in Vietnam, as much of the country protested their service.
"I would have hated to lose my life over there for that," said Jaffe.
While there is no way to re-write history, Tuesday's parade was the chance to recognize the sacrifices of those like Jaffe.
"Because of veterans, you have the freedoms that you do have. It's taken for granted I think too many times," said Jaffe.