Vietnam Veterans honored 50 years after war ended

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JEFFERSON CITY - Hundreds of veterans gathered at the Capitol Thursday to be honored 50 years after the Vietnam War. 

Veterans from all around the state received pins from legislators, as a thank you for their service. 

A key message: thank yous have come decades later than they should have.

Veteran Ed Roberts said he was grateful to finally be honored, given the cold reception they received coming home from the war.

"It's a great feeling to finally get recognition on your service, because I was a draftee and the welcome home was not pleasant," he said.

Roberts said it was great to see lawmakers and the governor show support for Missouri veterans.

In a ceremony full of patriotism and pride, one star stood out: Veteran Gary Stuchlik, who shared one of his experiences.

Stuchlik and his crew were on a supply run when their helicopter malfunctioned and crashed. 

"My leg was hurting pretty bad, and I could still here the engine running and I was afraid it was going to blow up," he said. 

After being rescued and eventually ending up in a hospital in Colorado, Stuchlik lost all contact with his crew. 

In 2004, he received a call from a commander who put him in touch with them.

When Stuchlik was given a purple heart, which honors veterans who are injured in combat, he was able to invite his former crew to ceremony reuniting them after 47 years.  

"It's hard to describe, we didn't really know each other all that well but yet what we shared together we have that bond that is pretty hard to describe," he said. 

Later, Stuchlik received the governor's proclamation from Parson, recognizing Vietnam veterans for their service. 

"It was given to me, but it's for all the Vietnam veterans, I feel very humbled to be in possession of it, I will take care of it for all of those who did serve," Stuchlik said.