TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- Florida is home to more than one and a half million veterans, with about 500,000 who served in the Vietnam War.
Dozens were part of Friday's annual Veterans Day parade in Tallahassee.
Charles Thompson served in the U.S. Army for 23 years. He said he embraced every day, knowing he was fighting for a cause he believed in: the freedom of the United States.
"Jobs were short, and there was an opportunity that I can do something to benefit not just me, but the country," he said.
Over the course of his service, Thompson was stationed in Georgia, South Carolina and Colorado and deployed to Germany and Vietnam.
"I enjoyed it -- even the bad days, I enjoyed it, because I knew in the end, it was going to be worth the cause," he said.
It was a cause not many stood behind during the Vietnam War, leading to mixed reactions when Thompson returned.
"I met people that really hated me. I met people that shed tears with me," he said, "so I learned to accept it."
Still, Thompson said he values respect for veterans and for the flag.
"To a lot of people that flag don't mean nothing, but to a veteran or to a military person -- anyone that's serving -- that flag means a whole lot," he said.
As the country turns to a new president, Thompson said Americans need to put differences aside.
"I'm hoping for the best," he said. "I hope we all are, and I hope the country comes together. Just be one America."