Hon­or­ing Viet­nam vet­er­ans

Record Observer - - Opinion -

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.

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