Last year, President Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. It designated March 29 as National Vietnam Veterans Day. The purpose was to honor those who served at a time when service members were treated poorly by the American people – instead of ticker tape parades, they were spat on, called “baby killers” or shrugged off without so much as a ‘thank you for your service.’
The attitudes of Americans created lasting damage for the veterans of that era, even though the vast majority of American service members helped the Vietnamese people on a personal level …for which they were imminently grateful.
Today, across the nation, there are ceremonies in communities to honor not just the fallen, but those who served. The creation of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial 30 years ago was a first step, this national holiday is another step. As much as we choose to honor them, little can be done to heal them.
The somber black walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial bear the names of 58,318 Americans who lost their lives in the conflict. They will never be forgotten #VietnamWarVeteransDay pic.twitter.com/ZTdItRdiHa
— US Department of the Interior (@Interior) March 29, 2018
“We are what they call the abandoned generation of vets. But, in our code for our chapter it says, ‘Never will one generation of veterans abandon another.’ That’s our national motto for the Vietnam Veterans of America. We all strive for one thing, and that’s to help military veterans, homeless veterans — we’re not going to abandon them like we were abandoned.
I’ve got a chapter full of Vietnam veterans, and we do not talk about it. If somebody brings up something about Vietnam, someone else will quell it.” Army Maj. Rick Homer, Ret. – William Perkins Chapter 987 of the Vietnam Veterans of America
Why they don’t talk
There were a lot of things wrong with the Vietnam War, much of which had to do with a failure of the US government, or media and war activists that painted the military in an extremely negative light.
W J Astore noted also that the US Military used tactics from the war in Europe, which did not work as well in the jungles of Southeast Asia, where guerilla warfare reigned. None of that knowlege could help our veterans with what they experienced.
Even veterans who did not actually serve in Vietnam, but were deployed elsewhere were spat on and called names when they returned.
Many veterans were exposed to horrific chemicals such as Agent Orange, which produced unimaginable damage to their bodies and their children, not to mention what it did to the Vietnamese and their land.
There were massacres such as My Lai, things which occur during war that are unfathomable to anyone with a conscience. There are images burned into the memories of Vietnam veterans that can never be erased.
Warning: this video contains stark images of the war –
To have honor bestowed on the service members who fought in the midst of that war is an important milestone for all American veterans. They fought valiantly. They were hated and despised. They lived through unimaginable horror. Many have severe PTSD from that experience. But they are Americans who deserve our respect for their sacrifice and service.
The next time you see a Vietnam Veteran…tell them thank you. They may or may not respond, but generally, their face lights up when you recognize their service in a positive manner. Sometimes a gentle hand on their arm brings a tear to their eyes. It’s the least we can do for these veterans who gave their all for our country. Celebrate their tremendous sacrifice today, National Vietnam Veterans Day!
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