VIDEO: Click here to watch Cold War Victory Salute festivities, including a parade honoring veterans and a fireworks show.
Click here to see a photo showcase of the Cold War Victory Salute celebration.
Click here to see a photo showcase of the home run derby and fireworks show.
Jacqueline Hoy walked into an intensive care unit soon after the Cold War began, becoming one of the Navy's first female nurses to treat gravely wounded male troops.
Her husband, Lt. Col. James Hoy Sr., shipped to the Philippines in 1965 and worked in a operating room so busy with the Vietnam War's gunshot victims that they tore out the maternity ward to make more room.
And their son, Col. James Hoy Jr., commanded nuclear units in West Germany capable of attacking the Soviet Union — until the Berlin Wall tumbled, the Iron Curtain imploded and suddenly his archenemies were his allies.
A Hoy served in the U.S. military nearly every day of a Cold War that stretched from the end of World War II until 1991.
Until Tuesday, not a single Hoy had ever marched in a victory parade.
“First time,” said Hoy Sr. “Nice to be here.”
The Hoy family and nearly 600 other Cold War-era veterans on Tuesday afternoon crammed into the CenturyLink Center, preparing to march three blocks for a ceremony, a home run derby and then the fireworks at TD Ameritrade Park.
Prior to the parade, veterans and their families enjoyed an informal picnic sponsored and staffed by Hy-Vee. Volunteers from the City of Omaha shuttled veterans from their cars to the picnic in golf carts.
The parade itinerary was simple enough: March down 10th Street, wave to the crowds, and then listen to a military band, politicians and civic leaders salute their service to the country.
But this parade, known as the Cold War Victory Salute, was fraught with meaning. Many of the Korea, Vietnam and Cold War-era veterans milling in this arena atrium had deployed into brutal heat and cold.
They had been shot, or shot at. They had survived, sometimes just barely. Some of their friends hadn't.
And then they came home in ones and twos, on commercial flights, trains and taxicabs, and went back to their lives. Little recognition. Little thanks.
“We've always been a little disappointed,” said Bill Ramsey, a Marine awarded the Purple Heart after he took shrapnel in an arm and nearly lost it during the Korean War.
Ramsey arrived at his parents' Council Bluffs home via taxi in 1951. His parents were at work. They had left a key in the door. He remembers walking in, cracking open a beer and offering a toast in the empty house.
“Welcome home, Bill,” he said.
Ramsey, now 82, carried an American flag on Tuesday and led the hundreds of Cold War-era veterans out to the street. They walked out to blistering heat — 99 degrees at parade time — but also the cheers of about 1,000 people who lined 10th Street.
“Thank you!” the crowd yelled.
Ramsey and the others waved in response. The veterans included Gov. Dave Heineman and U.S. Senate hopeful Bob Kerrey, who took part with no trappings of his campaign.
Then they all marched.
Here came John Pixley, an 81-year-old wearing his full Air Force dress uniform. Pixley, a retired lieutenant colonel, served on a reconnaissance aircraft during the height of the Cold War, flying for the Strategic Air Command to bases and secret missions on every continent save South America, he said.
“I can't say any more than that,” he said and smiled.
Eventually he retired and worked as a counselor at Iowa Western Community College. His daughter Rebecca Pixley remembers students telling her that her dad would slip them monthly $20 bills to help them feed their children and finish their two-year degrees.
Pixley's dress uniform was black and made of material not suited for 99 degrees.
Are you OK, sir?
“I've been in worse places than this,” he scoffed.
Here came Robert Nore Jr., carrying a giant black-and-white photo.
It was of his father, Robert Nore Sr., who served in Korea. His dad often talked of the indifferent reception Korean War vets received when they came home, Nore said. He died 15 years ago.
“I didn't feel like I could be anywhere else but here,” Nore said. “I needed to walk in his stead.”
And here came the Hoys, smiling and marching together.
They walked through the cheering crowd, up a ramp and into the baseball stadium.
During a ceremony held inside the stadium, Terry Kroeger, publisher of The World-Herald, said the newspaper came up with the idea of the Cold War Victory Salute because research for a soon-to-be-released book on the Cold War showed that its veterans had rarely received accolades when they came home.
“Sadly, too many times, Cold War veterans were met with indifference or even hostility,” he said.
“While we will always honor all veterans, today is your day, Cold War vets.”
Said Heineman: “I'm proud to be the one to say thank you, thank you, thank you for your service.”
And Fang Wong, national commander of the American Legion, spoke about how the Cold War, known for its nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union, had been marked by multiple “hot wars” that cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
“We hoped that when the Cold War ended, war would end,” he said, before listing Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea as current threats to the United States.
The Hoys stayed for the speeches, and appreciated the thanks. But when asked earlier in the day why they had come to the event, they all had different reasons.
For James Hoy Sr., it was about Vietnam veterans like himself getting better treatment than when they returned home from that controversial war. James Hoy Jr. said he was there to honor his parents and spend an important day with them.
For Jacqueline Hoy, it was about what would happen inside the baseball stadium.
It was about when they would present the flag, and a young man would step forward and sing the national anthem.
Then her heart would swell with pride, she said. It always does.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1064, email@example.com
Check back with Omaha.com for updates from this event.
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