Auburn University’s Air Force ROTC is planning a 5K fundraiser to help Vietnam Veterans, and the public is invited to join them in this race.
The Operation: Homecoming 5K will be held on April 1 on the Auburn University campus. It will begin begin at 8 a.m. at the Nichols Center lawn. Snacks and water will be provided. The event is being organized by the ROTC’s John “Boots” Stratford Squadron. Their goal is to raise $2,000 for the nonprofit organization Vietnam Veterans of America.
The 5K is meant to honor and remember the Vietnam veterans and POWs who returned home in 1973 during Operation: Homecoming. This year marks the event’s 50th anniversary. Between February and April of 1973, there were 591 prisoners of war released from Vietnam and brought home to America.
“It concluded at the very beginning of April, so we’ve got it perfect timing to 50 years ago,” said race organizer Sean Miller. “Basically, these people were being tortured. They were experiencing horrendous crimes against humanity while being held in Vietnam. And the fact that we were able to bring back so many — bring them back home — was such a great thing.”
The course will work its way through campus around several major hot spots including the Agricultural Park, Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the Haley Center.
“Auburn has a beautiful campus and so we’re taking the track through that,” Miller said. “It’s a very walkable campus so we don’t have to worry about cars crossing the roads very much.”
While registration for the race is normally $25, the Air Force ROTC is currently offering a discounted price of $18. T-shirts are included in the registration price or can be purchased separately for $15. All proceeds will go to help the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Registration will be open through race day.
The John “Boots” Stratford squadron is part of the Arnold Air Society, a service society for Air Force ROTC cadets. Miller, 20, said his organization’s mission is to grow servant leaders into positions in the Air Force after graduation from college.
The Arnold Air Society does smaller service opportunities each month and holds a larger fundraiser once a year. This isn’t the first time they have held a 5k. In March of 2020, they held the Boots for Troops race to raise funds for the Hope for the Warriors nonprofit.
However, the Operation: Homecoming 5K is their big fundraiser for this year. This will be the first time John “Boots” Stratford squadron has honored Operation: Homecoming.
Miller believes the Vietnam Veterans of America is a worthy cause for his organization to get behind. As the veterans have aged, they have not always gotten the support they need.
“The support that they need grows greater every day because of things like medical,” Miller said. “A lot of these people have no families anymore, they don’t have that kind of support. And then also, many of them weren’t given any support when they got back. So, they have long-term medical issues that were never taken care of. They have long-term emotional issues from being held in Vietnam that just weren’t seen to because they were demonized when they did get back home.”
Vietnam Veterans of America is a nationwide nonprofit that promotes and advocates issues that are important to veterans. They help Vietnam veterans with health care access as well as create a positive public perception for them.
“That’s been a decades long goal that they have been fighting for,” Miller said. “And I think they’re doing great work on that.”
Miller added: “We would like to encourage community members to join this event. This isn’t for veterans only, this isn’t for cadets only. We want everybody to be a part of this. We are really trying to work towards that $2,000 goal.”
South Donahue Drive
Auburn , Alabama 36849