LEWISTON — Upon returning home from the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s, veterans were often met with scorn rather than the respect and gratitude that veterans from other wars received.

Saying thanks are long overdue, Charlie Paul is stepping up to help his fellow Vietnam War vets.

Paul, who served 28 months with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam, is helping to organize Lewiston’s first National Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremony, scheduled for Thursday, March 29, at Veterans Memorial Park. The two-hour ceremony will begin at 11 a.m.

“Some of them were not treated as well as they should have been,” said Paul, who belongs to the Marine Corps League Central Maine Detachment 810. “It’s a way to reach out and make them feel good.”

An act of Congress establishing the National Vietnam War Veterans Day as a day of recognition and remembrance, which received bipartisan support, was signed into law last year by President Trump.

March 29 was not selected at random. On that date in 1973, the last U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam.

The low-key ceremony is scheduled to begin with prayers. Opportunities for Vietnam vets to meet and reminisce will continue until 1 p.m., when the celebration will conclude with the playing of taps.

Veterans who attend will receive lapel pins and letters of thanks for their service.

There will also be a POW-MIA table set up to provide information.

Paul, who served a total of six years in the Marines and 20 years in the U.S. Army, said he is hoping he can get at least 50 veterans to attend the inaugural ceremony. That would provide a strong foundation to continue to expand the event.

“I would consider that a success,” Paul said. “This is something I felt I needed to do. I’m hoping after this two-hour start, we can then turn it into a four- to six-hour event in future years.”