Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald will lay wreaths on Tuesday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Tuesday to honor U.S. service members killed in the Vietnam War.
The event is part of an 13-year, ongoing commemoration to mark the 50th anniversary of the conflict, which spanned from the late 1950s to 1975.
The Vietnam War Commemoration aims to recognize all the men and women who served on active duty during the Vietnam War era, as well as the families of the fallen and living veterans.
Roughly 9 million veterans served during the Vietnam War era; the names of 58,307 war dead are etched on the black granite memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
"This commemoration has special significance for those of us at VA because of our honored mission to serve those who have 'borne the battle,'" McDonald said in a release announcing the event. "It's also an opportunity to remember our VA colleagues who served in this generation of veterans."
The earliest names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial date to 1959 — the year two U.S. military advisers were killed in an attack on their quarters. Among the last casualties are three Marines left behind in Cambodia on May 15, 1975, during an attempted rescue of the civilian crew of the merchant ship Mayaguez.
The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act allowed the Pentagon to spend money to mark the war's 50th anniversary. DoD has partnered with 9,733 community organizations nationwide as well as the VA, to host events for veterans and their families.
More than 5,300 activities have been planned to date, including the wreath laying ceremony in Washington, scheduled for 8:30 a.m.
Patricia Kime covers military and veterans health care and medicine for the Military Times. She can be reached at email@example.com