WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — In honor of National Vietnam War Veterans Day, a ceremony was held at the Eastern Connecticut Veterans Community Center in Willimantic.

Veterans gather at the center every week for a coffee gathering, but on Wednesday, those who served in Vietnam were recognized.

Gerald Ledger spent 12 months serving in Vietnam between 1968 and 1969. One memory during his service stands out; Ledger said he and a group of fellow soldiers were ambushed during a transport mission.

“What saved me was a spare tire mounted on the door, and the mine hit that,” Ledger said. “That was the closest call I ever had.”

Diane Nadeau is the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in the Windham Region, but she plays a huge role in organizing events at the veterans center. She spoke to the crowd on Wednesday to thank them for their service.

“The sad thing is, you never had a good welcome home. And after 54 years, we are now making sure we make up for those times,” Nadeau said.

Sal Tarantino is a veteran of the Connecticut State Guard and a familiar face at the center.

“It doesn’t matter where they served or when they served.. the old expression is they served,” Tarantino said. “It’s great I get to sit with heroes.”

Veteran and state rep. Tim Ackert (R-8) also addressed the group of veterans.

“Thank you, and welcome home,” Ackert said.

The center holds events and fundraisers throughout the year to help pay for veteran services.

A self-defense class will be on April 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. All proceeds will benefit the center—call (860) 428-1420 for information on how to participate.