The Veterans Affairs Department estimates we are losing more than 500 veterans per day who served during the Vietnam War years. We must act now to do what should have been done 50 years ago.
Across the nation, Americans are uniting to thank and honor these veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice. Spearheading this effort is the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration office.
Of special significance, President Trump last year signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, establishing National Vietnam War Veterans Day that will, henceforth, be celebrated every March 29. This March 29 will be the first anniversary of the new law.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington — “the Wall” — will play a significant role in our nation’s honoring of our Vietnam veterans on that special day. The Wall is an arresting reminder to its more than 5 million annual visitors of the service and sacrifice of the more than 58,000 Americans whose names are on that black granite memorial. There is something haunting and yet cleansing about that special place.
Senior members of the Defense Department and VA will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony on that day at that hallowed site.
The commemoration office is also coordinating with governors of all U.S. states, commonwealths and territories, and the mayor of the District of Columbia, to host similar events on or around this day; as of March 19, 47 states had committed to do so.
The commemoration was authorized by Congress, under DoD auspices, and launched at the Wall in 2012. Our goal is to thank and honor America’s 6.6 million living veterans of the 9 million who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975 — regardless of location — and the families of all who served.
Nearly 3 million served “in country” and another 6 million served elsewhere. All were called to serve. None could self-determine where they were stationed, and each deserves our thanks.
Those who served in country experienced unique hardships that only come with service in a combat zone, which every veteran understands and honors. While we recognize all, those who served in country deserve our special appreciation.
Inspired by thousands of local, state and national organizations that have partnered with the commemoration, Americans have already publicly and individually thanked and honored nearly 2 million of these veterans and their families in hometowns across the nation.
Those who have joined us in the hometown-centric Commemorative Partner Program (more than 11,000 organizations) have committed to conducting two events per year, in their local communities, that recognize and honor our veterans and their families. These partners have held more than 12,000 events to date.
There are no costs associated with becoming a commemorative partner, and we heartily invite organizations to join the mix of dedicated local and national businesses, corporations, veterans and military organizations, associations, educational institutions, community groups, towns, cities, states and many others that have committed to assist the nation in this noble effort.
The commemoration is providing Vietnam Veteran lapel pins to commemorative partners for dignified public presentations, during commemorative events, to living U.S. veterans who served during the Vietnam War period. Each veteran who served during the dates above is eligible to receive one lapel pin.
Vietnam veterans can locate upcoming commemorative events here; zoom in to locate your state and city or town, and click a blue pin to reveal details of an upcoming event, including contact information.
If there are no blue pins in your area, check back frequently as new events are added every week. Veterans who need help finding a commemorative event can email the commission.
Now is the time for all Americans to fully embrace the brave men and women who returned home from Vietnam and other locations around the world, often to shame and disgrace — or served in uniform during that period and failed to get the respect due them — by publicly thanking them with honor and dignity, as well as recognizing the sacrifices of their families.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jim Jackson is the director of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration.