Seekonk veteran encourages others to share appreciation for other veterans
BRISTOL, R.I. (WLNE) — About 100 veterans lead the town of Bristol’s Fourth of July Parade on Tuesday. Vietnam veteran Wally Coelho was among those walking or riding at the head of the parade.
While the Seekonk native said he enjoys the parade, spreading the message of what the holiday means to him is on the forefront of his mind, even though for decades he never told anybody about his time in the Army.
After enlisting in the U.S. Army, Coelho got a draft notice. Shortly after, he found himself at basic training.
Just before his flight to Vietnam, he married his sweetheart before his deployment and spending 51 weeks in Vietnam.
After returning to America, Coelho said he was given specific instructions upon stepping off the plane, saying, “They wanted us to change into civilian clothes — they told us to make sure to keep our cool. Don’t engage, just ignore and go home.”
From then until 2011, he said that’s exactly what he did. Coelho focused on his family and career until a neighbor asked him if he was a veteran.
Over a decade later, Coelho made it his mission to make sure veterans in Rhode Island know they are appreciated and understand the benefits available to them while mentoring and educating the next generation.