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Nearly 150 honored for their service
Art Smith, center, stands with fellow Vietnam War veterans during the Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Ceremony Friday at Big League Dreams. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Burdell Brown was one of the nearly 150 honored at Friday’s Vietnam War 50th Commemoration Ceremony held at Manteca’s Big League Dreams sports complex.
This belated welcome home event was hosted by the Vet Center in Modesto.
“This reception was long overdue,” said Randall ‘Gunny’ Reyes, who is Veteran Outreach Program Specialist at the Vet Center.
He also served as emcee for the program, consisting of Lt. Paul Carmona of the Manteca Police Department, Mayor Steve DeBrum, and Pete Butler, who is a retired U.S. Army now representing Congressman Jeff Denham’s office, serving as guest speakers.
“Many (Vietnam veterans) struggled coming home decades ago whether it was finding work or in their personal relationships – they suffered mistreatment from society,” Reyes said.
Such was the case for Brown, who is a resident of Manteca for the past 37 years but was originally from Ohio.
“It was hard to find work after I got out,” he said. “I started to go back into military.”
Instead, Brown took on a series of jobs, from working concrete to operating a ski run and landscaping.
At the time, he was unaware of PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I was an angry individual,” Brown recalled. “I was an alcoholic – I would drink until I passed out.”
He went through three marriages, several run-ins with the law, and, as a Vietnam vet, was sometimes rocked by shame and ridicule from complete strangers.
Brown, who worked as an iron worker, has been sober for about 38 years. He has three sons from his marriages, including Reilly Brown, who, as a member of the Veterans in Action motorcycle club, accompanied him to this event that, fittingly, coincided with Good Friday.
The Vet Center opened in Modesto in 1979. Until 1991, it provided services primarily for Vietnam veterans. Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield changed that, said Vet Center Readjustment Counseling Assistant Monica Shoneff, a U.S. Army veteran who saw action in Bagdad, Iraq.
Butler, who saw wounded in action while stationed in Afghanistan, was thankful to have the resources to re-adjust to civilian life. He was especially sympathetic to those who fought in Vietnam.
“I was not spit on,” he said. “We returned home as war heroes.”
Brown and others were honored with a pinning ceremony. After that, they were offered a free meal at the Manteca Veterans Center.
All this was part of a Presidential Proclamation established May 25, 2015 – a commemoration period for Vietnam vets, from Memorial Day 2015 through Veterans Day 2025.
Supporters for the Manteca commemoration event included family members of Vietnam veterans, VFW Post 6311, Modesto Shadow Chase Running Club, Turlock High JROTC, Veterans in Action, and Department of Veterans Affair, to name a few.

To contact reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail