Today, March 29, some of our fellow Americans will stop to remember that it is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. If you are old enough to remember the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite you probably remember the horrible war, the protests, and the nightly casualty reports brought to you over the three choices we had for nightly news.
Some of you lost family members and friends. These heroes had no parades down Main Street and some were spat upon when they returned home. They were called ugly names and many never forgot the horrors of war or the rejection of their country.
Some of us had brothers who enlisted, just like my older brother Bob. Ladies stepped up, too, and volunteered. Many were in the medical units on the front lines.
Many Americans saw uncles, aunts, cousins, and fathers saw report for duty, thanks to the draft. My wife’s father, Joe Cruz Salas, enlisted in the Army. The Vietnam War touched so many families. Others reading this have never heard of the draft . Later the draft was abolished by President Gerald R. Ford in favor of our all-volunteer force of today.
As the war raged on it seemed to tear the nation apart. Draft dodgers headed to Canada as they refused to serve. Later, President Jimmy Carter would pardon those who refused to serve. That, too, was controversial and opened the old wounds again.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day will be celebrated today in our Nation’s Capital at the memorial designed and dedicated during the Reagan presidency. Over 50,000 names of our war dead are engraved upon the black granite walls.
Better still is that some 1,600 ceremonies will be conducted across the nation..Our Defense Department and our service branches will participate in every one of them.
The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, signed into law in 2017, designates March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Most states celebrate “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” on March 29 or 30 of each year. Though there is some debate, March 29 is generally viewed as a more appropriate date, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. On that day in 1973, the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the last prisoners of war held in North Vietnam arrived on American soil. It is also the date President Nixon chose for the first Vietnam Veterans Day in 1974.
The men and women who served and came home deserve our respect and gratitude. So do the families that lost loved ones. These men and women served with honor and integrity just like generations of Americans before them. When America called they showed up for duty.
Recognizing the sacrifices and service of the Vietnam Veteran and the Vietnam Era Veterans is long overdue. These special days cannot make up for the pain and suffering of an America that rejected these patriots for decades, but it is a down payment.
Please join Americans in celebrating the bravery and patriotism of those who served our country during the Vietnam War. If you can’t attend a service, you can pause to thank a Veteran, say a prayer, or take a minute for a moment of silence to remember those who served. All who served gave some. Sadly, some gave all.
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Pixaby