Military commissaries and exchanges will be among the many businesses, community groups and other organizations that will honor those who served in uniform from 1955 to 1975 by providing lapel pins as part of National Vietnam Veterans Day on Thursday.
About 130 Army and Air Force Exchange stores worldwide, as well as seven Navy Exchange stores and some Marine Corps Exchange locations, will hand out the pins provided by the Vietnam War Commemoration office, a Defense Department-backed agency responsible for marking the 50th anniversary of the conflict. Seventy commissaries will host commemorative ceremonies that day, according to commissary officials. The ceremonies will be free and open to the public, but those planning to attend should check with their local store to confirm location and time of ceremony.
The pins are available for “United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location,” per the group’s website.
But AAFES and NEX officials said neither chain will require proof of service for veterans to receive the pin; an MCX spokesman said via email that he could not immediately answer questions about eligibility.
Commissary officials said the 70 commissaries will hand out the lapel pins as part of their ceremonies. There was no published requirement for veterans to provide proof of Vietnam-period service to get the pin at commissaries, a commissary spokesman said.
Commissary and exchange officials have compiled a joint list of locations.
The AAFES locations include stores throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Japan, South Korea, Guam and other overseas outlets that will be providing the pins from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Participating NEX locations include stores in Norfolk, Virginia; Jacksonville and Pensacola, Florida; Bethesda, Maryland; San Diego; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Guam. Details on those events are available on NEX’s Facebook events page.
The Pacific Views MCX at Camp Pendleton, California, will give away the lapel pins “all day” on Thursday. No further details on that event or on other MCX events were available, though the exchange at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, reportedly will distribute the pins March 25-29, and some MCX locations appear on the joint list linked above.
Coast Guard media affairs officials didn’t respond to an email requesting information on possible Coast Guard Exchange events.
Veterans whose service makes them eligible for a lapel pin but who can’t get one at a nearby commissary or exchange can check the commemoration office’s website for a map of nearby events, or for contact information regarding partner organizations in their area. The can also email the commission at whs.vnwar50th_CPP_EVENTS@mail.mil.
The pins have been available nationwide since 2015. Asked about eligibility requirements for those visiting exchanges for their pins, a commission official directed all questions to the exchanges.
Pin requirements vary by event: Veterans honored by the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Florida will be on the honor system, while those receiving pins from a Daughters of the American Revolution chapter in Kansas must provide a DD-214.
The commission also runs a Certificate of Honor program, which makes certificates available to former Vietnam-era prisoners of war and some surviving family members of those who served during the conflict.