It wasn't just a piece of paper.
"I don't know exactly how to put it," said the 64-year-old Island Park resident, who served in the Marines from 1966 to 1970. "I just feel like we're finally getting some recognition."
Nassau's annual Veterans Day service, held on a blustery, sunny morning at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, acknowledged military service members from as far back as World War II. The national Veterans Day holiday is Friday.
But as the number of survivors from older conflicts dwindles, the ceremony focused on those who fought in Vietnam and then fought a chilly reception back in the States.
Joseph Slattery, president of the United Veterans Organization of Nassau County, noted studies showing that Vietnam veterans have a higher mortality rate than those from World War II or Korea.
"So while you're still here," the Army veteran of the Vietnam War told them, "we want to give you the welcome home you didn't get when you came back."
A color guard from veterans groups across Nassau marked the occasion, which also included remarks by County Executive Edward Mangano and the state's acting director of Veterans' Affairs, William Kraus.
He said helping a veteran "is not just a bumper sticker," and called on fellow veterans to offer their assistance, be it counseling or encouraging the pursuit of higher education.
"The military gives us a family," Kraus said. "In our world, every day is Veterans Day."
Afterward, Frank Bari, a Coast Guard veteran who served in Vietnam, sought to find his father, a World War II soldier, on the wall of names at the Veterans Memorial Plaza.
"Today was very emotional," said the 60-year-old Mineola resident, pointing to his chest. "It breaks up a little bit of the numbness."
Asked about today's returning forces, he paused.
"When I came home, I hid it," Bari said. "I'm glad that, today, at least people are shaking their hands."