When the Vietnam War ended in the spring of 1975, America’s Vietnam veterans (with the exception of former prisoners of war) received no formal public thanks as veterans from other wars have. Most who returned simply integrated back into their local towns, using the leadership skills and talents they’d gained to better their communities.
The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, established by Congress in 2012 as a national 50th anniversary tribute, is an attempt to thank these vets who’ve waited decades to receive the recognition they deserve. Across the country, it’s estimated that 10,000 ceremonies will be held in small towns and large cities between 2015 and 2017 honoring these Vietnam-era vets.
Here in Ashe County, the New River Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America is hosting a ceremony at the Museum of Ashe County History on Tuesday, September 20 from 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. Veterans who served between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, and their families, are highly encouraged to attend and be recognized. The event is open to the public.
Vietnam-era veterans, like all other veterans, bravely pursued the goals and objectives our national leaders set, yet they returned to a society in turmoil. Many Americans found it hard to separate the unpopular war from the warriors themselves and few wanted to hear their stories or attempt to understand the hardships and problems these vets faced.
Approximately nine million Americans served during the era. Unfortunately, over 58,000 returned in flag-draped caskets and thousands more came back with visible scars or invisible wounds. Regrettably, this recognition effort is coming too late for two million of these veterans who’ve already died. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates we’re losing about 382 Vietnam-era veterans daily. Though significantly belated, this endeavor seeks to reach our remaining living Vietnam veterans and their families to thank them.
In his photo documentary book, “Warriors Remembered,” retired Army Colonel Albert J. Nahas says this about Vietnam, “It mattered not what politicians argued. It mattered not what history would reveal. We had no expectation but to serve where duty called us. We asked for no reward except a nation’s thanks.”
I encourage everyone to join in this effort to thank our local Vietnam veterans and to also consider attending the ceremony on September 20. And though it’s coming much too late, I want all Ashe County Vietnam-era veterans to know that both a grateful nation and our community thanks and honors you.