It has been nearly 60 years since members of our armed forces fought on behalf of the South Vietnamese people. Today, we not only pause and reflect, but to remember and honor the memory of the more than 58,000 men and women who gave so much — paying the ultimate sacrifice for freedom’s sake, and to honor and remember the more than 3.4 million military personnel who served in the republic of South Vietnam or elsewhere in Southeast Asia in support of the U.S. military operations in Vietnam. The tradition of service demonstrated by those who served during the Vietnam War provides lasting testimony to the indomitable and tenacious spirit that resides in the hearts of our Vietnam veterans.
Vietnam veterans are everyday people made extraordinary by events beyond their control. Our Vietnam veterans performed the highest form of public service. When it all came down to it, they stood strong, and when it was needed, they answered the challenge.
We thank them for their noble efforts and achievements. Vietnam veterans are worthy of every praise, monument and memorial we could offer. But the best way to honor them is to ensure that every new generation of veterans is appreciated and receives the dignity, respect and welcome home they have earned. Making sure every veteran receives the benefits and entitlements they deserve is one way of maintaining a link to the thousands of men and women who helped secure so many blessings for us.
The VFW has always been at the forefront in the fight for Vietnam veterans. The battle has been waged on several fronts, ranging from support for GIs during the war, to passage of service-connected legislation, contributions to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and our continuing efforts to resolve the fate of the war’s missing in action.
Through it all, the VFW was there to bear the standard. Beginning with the GI Bill of Rights for Vietnam-era veterans, passed in June 1966, we advocated for benefits on par with those granted to previous veterans.
There were also problems unique to Vietnam — one chemical and the other psychological. The use of Agent Orange resulted in a 15-year fight for presumptive compensation. Post-traumatic stress disorder produced a need for veteran centers which finally became a reality in 1979. Renewed and innovative employment programs were called for, and an extension of veterans’ preference was launched.
In 1965, the VFW started a nationwide movement to “Support the Boys in Vietnam.” As veterans ourselves, we understood how important it was to forge a link with the troops through sending tons of relief parcels. During the course of the war, nine VFW Commanders-in-Chief visited fighting men in the field.
Every year since, our VFW Commander-in-Chief visits Vietnam as part of a Southeast Asia trip. Our VFW team makes this trip each year to measure the progress being made in the recovery of American remains from the Vietnam War.
On Monday, March 29th, let’s pause to honor those who’ve selflessly sacrificed to protect and defend our freedom by recommitting ourselves to our families, to our communities and to our country. Though long overdue, today America recognizes each and every Vietnam veteran who did not receive the proper welcome home they earned and deserved.
Thank you for your service, and welcome home.