Honoring Vietnam veterans
For many Americans, it is hard to believe the Vietnam War was 50 years ago. For Vietnam veterans, many still carry the scars — physically and emotionally — of their experiences during the two decade-long battle beginning in November 1955 and lasting until the fall of Saigon in April 1975.
The time the United States was involved in the Vietnam War was a difficult time for our country. While many cried out that the U.S. shouldn’t be involved, more than 58,000 Americans died during the war. The war divided families, friends and politicians. We will not debate the morality of the country’s involvement, but we need to note the tens of thousands of lives lost and the hundreds of thousands more who brought the war home with them.
The Vietnam War lasted nearly 20 years, fought between the communist Viet Cong from North Vietnam and the democratic South Vietnamese. It began Nov. 1, 1955, and ended April 30, 1975 at the fall of Saigon. March 29, 1973, is widely considered to be the date the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam.
President Barack Obama proclaimed May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025, as the Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.
In his proclamation, Obama said more than 3 million American men and women served during the Vietnam War and more than 58,000 men and women died during the war.
According to the U.S. Vietnam War Commemoration website, the 13year commemoration has several objectives, including thanking and honoring veterans of the Vietnam War, to highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, to pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the U.S. during the Vietnam War; to highlight advances in technology, science and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War; and to recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War was, no doubt, a controversial one, and the ripples that ran through protesters at home and veterans upon arriving home took years to settle. It was how veterans of the Vietnam War were negatively treated upon returning stateside that caused Americans to band together and ensure we would support our troops returning home from modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many veteran support programs have been created since the end of the Vietnam War, and many more have sprouted up during the time U.S. troops have been deployed in the Middle East.
Still, much has to be done. Veterans don’t always have visible signs of battle, such as a lost limb due to an IED, or facial scars caused by shrapnel. The psychological effects of battle are direct causes of posttraumatic stress disorder, a leading cause of suicide among veterans. More needs to be done to help veterans suffering from the effects of war, both mental and physical, and that lies on us, the citizens whom our military men and women fight to defend.
We learned many lessons from Vietnam, and hopefully the greatest one is that while we may not agree with the reasoning behind sending soldiers to fight abroad, we need to welcome them back with open arms and offer them the support they need.
To our local Vietnam veterans, we salute you. We’re sorry America wasn’t always there for you when you returned home. But we’re here now.