OWEGO, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – Veterans and their families are being welcomed home as the 50th anniversary of the end of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War approaches.

Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day was officially established by Congress in 2012.

This morning in Owego, there was a wreath laying ceremony outside of the courthouse and a lunch at VFW Post 1371.

21 service members from Tioga County lost their lives fighting in Vietnam.

At the ceremony, there was a map detailing the locations of each of their deaths.

The Director of Veterans Services in Tioga County, Mike Middaugh says that today recognizes the over 9 million people who served during the Vietnam Era, from 1955 to 1975, regardless of whether they were stationed there or not.

“March 29th, 1973 was the day that the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam was disestablished. In addition, March 29th, 1973 was the day the last U.S. combat troops departed Vietnam. And finally, March 29th, 1973 was the day Hanoi released the last of its acknowledged prisoners of war.”

Middaugh shined a spotlight on the Lao and Hmong soldiers who were hired by U.S. special forces to fight the Northern Vietnamese, yet are rarely acknowledged for their service.

Several Lao and Hmong soldiers presented the colors at today’s ceremony.

Every veteran in attendance received several pins commemorating their bravery, and welcoming them home