Editor's note: The following is a guest commentary by retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey.
Combat in Vietnam produced vivid memories that are seared there forever. And when the veterans who fought in Vietnam returned home, they were mostly shunned by their fellow Americans. It hurt us then, and it still hurts us now.
But one federal organization – The Vietnam War Commemoration – is trying to remedy that. They are taking their congressional mandate very seriously. They are on a full court press thanking and honoring Vietnam veterans and their families for their service, sacrifice and valor 50 years ago. Indeed, across the nation, Americans are uniting to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families. Because of the challenges of the time, The Commemoration's efforts to thank Vietnam veterans and their families include all 9 million U.S. veterans who served from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, and their families, regardless of location.
The President recently signed S. 305 – The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. This established March 29 as the date, from here on, that all Americans can pause and consider the cost of that conflict to the lives of the many who fought there. In the years to come, many more will travel to the Nation's Capital and visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That sacred place is a reminder to its four million annual visitors of the service and sacrifice of more than 58,300 Americans whose names are on "The Wall." During a ceremony at The Wall on Memorial Day 2012, President Obama said "one of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam – most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame and we resolve that it will not happen again."
A key to the Commemoration accomplishing its primary objective is its hometown-centric Commemorative Partner Program. To date, more than 10,000 organizations at the local, state and federal levels have committed to conducting two events per year, in their local communities, that recognize and honor Vietnam veterans and their families. We Vietnam veterans are proud we carried out our duty as the country ordered us to do. We fought for each other over there. We fought to stay alive. There were no parades when we came home, as there were for almost every other conflict America has fought in. Members of my company all went back to their homes, farms, families and carried on with life. Many Vietnam veterans stayed in the Army, the Marines, the Air Force, the Navy, the Coast Guard and helped forge the Armed Services into the amazingly effective fighting forces they are today.
Now is the time for all Americans to fully embrace the brave men and women who returned home from Vietnam, often to shame and disgrace, by publicly thanking them with honor and dignity, as well as recognizing the sacrifices of their families. To quote retired U.S. Army Colonel Albert Nahas, a Vietnam veteran, "We had no expectations but to serve where duty called us. We asked for no reward except a nation's thanks." Please join the nation...thank a Vietnam veteran! Find out more at www.vietnamwar50th.com.
Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey.
Photo Credit: Alan Lessig/Staff
Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey is president of his own consulting firm based in Arlington, Virginia ( www.mccaffreyassociates.com). McCaffrey received two Distinguished Service Crosses and two Silver Stars for valor in Vietnam. He commanded the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) during Desert Storm and led U.S. Armed Forces