As thousands gathered at Fenway Park Saturday morning for the eighth annual Run to Home Base, one thing made this year different: tearful standing ovations for Vietnam veterans in attendance, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation/Massachusetts General Hospital program that works to heal the trauma many service members experience when they return home, has focused on veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who served after Sept. 11, 2001.
But Jack Hammond, executive director of Home Base who had a 30-year military career in the Army, announced that the program is extending treatment to veterans of the Vietnam War.
“Many of them had thought they were supporting their country, they felt they were doing the right thing, and then they came home and they really didn’t get that sense of support that we all benefited [from] in the post-9/11 generation,” he said during the race’s opening ceremony, which began around 7 a.m.
“Although we can’t undo the past, we sure as hell can do something about the future,” he said.
The crowd — which consisted of about 2,400 runners and walkers participating in either a 9K or 5K, 300 of them active-duty service members and military families — cheered as Vietnam veterans stood, waved, and wiped the tears from their eyes.
“I think it’s very important that, even if you oppose a war, you shouldn’t translate that into opposing the warriors,” said Harvey Weiner, a Newton resident and Vietnam veteran.
Other speakers included Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston Red Sox president Sam Kennedy, and US Representative Joe Kennedy III.
After the ceremony, attendees were able to visit a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial in…