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AARP Maryland Recognized for Veterans “Welcome Home” Initiative

Maryland State Delegate Barbara Robinson presents AARP Maryland volunteer John Henkel with a citation in recognition of the state office's service to the community's Vietnam veterans.

Maryland State Delegate Barbara Robinson has recognized AARP Maryland for its commitment to honoring all U.S. military personnel who served during the Vietnam War. Under the leadership and initiative of volunteer and Baltimore resident John Henkel, AARP Maryland has partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense and presented more than 500 Vietnam and Vietnam-Era veterans with an official Welcome Home lapel pin and Presidential Proclamation honoring their service and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation.

Robinson presented a citation from the Maryland General Assembly at a veterans's 50th anniversary service co-hosted by AARP Maryland:

"On Sunday November 20, I was honored to be a witness to the pinning of our Vietnam-era veteran heroes  who often do not get the recognition they deserve," said Robinson. "John Henkel’s commitment to honoring these veterans is a blessing that sends the message, 'Welcome home veteran-friend. Thank you for your sacrifice. It was a job well done!'”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration program provides Vietnam veterans with the honor, recognition and welcome that most did not receive at the War’s end, through presentation of a commemorative lapel pin and keepsake proclamation.  Henkel, a Vietnam-Era veteran, says the program has been warmly received.  “When I started, I did not understand at that moment, just how it would affect the veterans we present with this pin and welcome home,” Henkel said.

Living United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are eligible for pinning. Henkel says veteran seem to appreciate the honor coming from a fellow veteran:  “I had a 6’8” veteran from the 101 st Airborne crying when I put the lapel pin on his shirt. Many of us never had the welcome home that we wished for. We had to bury our heads and try to live a life the best way we could.”

“John’s personal commitment and initiative have moved the program far beyond its initial outreach,” said AARP Maryland State President Clarence “Tiger” Davis. “It seems like everywhere I go John’s name comes up, either in appreciation for an earlier pinning ceremony or to make plans for a new one.”


Wherever he meets a veteran, Henkel asks them if they’ve been welcomed home. He said, for example, that during a visit to Johns Hopkins he met a nurse who was a veteran and offered her the opportunity to receive a pin. “She cried in my arms because no one had ever welcomed her home. They just told her to go to back to work when she returned to civilian life.”


AARP Maryland has co-sponsored or co-presented pinning ceremonies with organizations such as Maryland Public Television, the Maryland State Veteran’s Caucus, Anne Arundel Community College, Johns Hopkins Bayview, the Maryland Department of Aging and the National Association of Black Veterans, as well as individual chapters across the state. In addition, Henkel has organized more than 20 pinning ceremonies for churches, Veteran’s Homes, the House of Delegates and community groups. Follow John Henkel on Twitter.


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