Vietnam Remembrance Day
Today, Vietnam Remembrance Day, we honor those who made the supreme sacrifice and the brave Vietnamese veterans, our allies in the Vietnam War, and the living Vietnam veterans whose extraordinary service earned them the Vietnam Campaign and Vietnam Service Medals.
In the early years of our Republic, George Washington stated why we should honor all our veterans. His words apply to Vietnam veterans, today.
"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."
In November 1863, Abraham Lincoln recognized the need to honor ALL veterans. During the Civil War, Lincoln’s Gettysburg’s Address to dedicate the battlefield cemetery stated the duty of the living to honor both the living and dead who served.
“…The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it (the battlefield), far above our poor power to add or detract… It is for us the living… to be dedicated … to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is … for us to be here dedicated to … that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”
On March 4, 1865, as the nation braced itself for the final throes of the Civil War, thousands of spectators gathered near the U.S. Capitol to hear President Lincoln’s second inaugural address. It was a controversial war like Vietnam; and in just over one month, the war would end, and the president would be assassinated. In his speech’s final paragraph, the president delivered his prescription for the nation’s recovery:
“…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan…”
We should be mindful of those who shall have borne the battle in the Vietnam War and not ignore or pass over them as we honor newer veterans.
Robert Neer, historian, entrepreneur, attorney, author, co-founder and co-editor of BlueMassGroup.com, the most widely read independent political blog in New England, wrote that academic historians, especially those at the nation’s most richly endowed research universities, largely ignore the history of the US military. Neer said that as we neglect to study our military, we reduce our ability to understand it, and weaken ourselves.
On March 29, 2016, Arizona Vietnam Veterans’ Day, this phase of the Vietnam Memorial was dedicated. It completes and explains the geo-politics, media influence, results of the antiwar movement, and the extraordinary service of Vietnam veterans. It gives meaning to Vietnam veterans’ service to help heal a “wounded spirit” by educating the public and future veterans.
This memorial clarifies that Communist North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam, that the international treaty (SEATO) justified US involvement in the war, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident did happen, that the US military and its allies won the war against the Communists in 1973 as it forced a peace treaty after massive B-52 bombings, that its POWs were returned, that the US promised to resupply the South with replacement ammunition, fuel, and equipment, and that Congress cut off all the funding for resupply to our South Vietnamese allies to their detriment.
The North rolled into Saigon on April 30, 1975, and the media and the anti-war crowd relished in the Communist take-over of the South. They insulted, maligned, ostracized, called our veterans baby-killers and losers, and damaged the spirit of returning Vietnam veterans. The so-called “peace movement” protesters took over college campuses, burned ROTC buildings, incited riots and violence, demoralized combat veterans, prolonged the war, and contributed to reeducation camps, boat people, and story-lines for an already biased media.
But Vietnam veterans’ service was extraordinary as they won all their major battles before leaving Vietnam in 1973. The average infantryman in Vietnam served 240 days in combat in one year while the average infantryman in WW II served about 40 days in actual combat in four years. They also developed weapons, tactics, and medical procedures benefitting future military forces and prevented the Communists from conquering all of Southeast Asia. They did all this while Congress, the media, and the protesters defamed them.
In my view, before we honor ALL veterans, including the wannabes, fakers, bureaucrats in uniform, and “virtual Vietnam veterans”, we must honor Vietnam veterans for their heroism, sacrifice, and extraordinary service. Just as we honor those who gave the last full measure of devotion, we must honor and heal the “wounded spirit” of the living Vietnam veterans who have borne the battle before they pass into oblivion.
We need to tell their story and history—the geo-politics, their patriotism, challenges, and accomplishments. Providing trinkets, pancake breakfasts, hotdog and hamburger cookouts, and robotically saying, “Thank you for your service” just is not enough. We must hold the living Vietnam veterans in high esteem, respecting, and truly honoring them for doing their duty. We do that, in part, with this new phase of this Vietnam memorial. Please read it, and tell others about it—especially educators, students and historians.
Pericles, an ancient Greek warrior, general, statesman, and leader of Athens from 460–429 B.C. who organized construction of the Parthenon and developed a democracy based on majority rule said:
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others”.
When I say “Welcome home, Vietnam veterans”, and “thank you for your service”, I understand what I am saying, and I really mean it.
Colonel Joe Abodeely, USA (Ret)