Everyone knows Veterans Day is November 11. That’s partly because 11/11 is an easy date to remember.
And, of course, Veterans Day has a lengthy history. It was first called Armistice Day. And it’s still called that in some countries. Veterans Day was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
Not as well known yet is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. It began in 2012. That’s when President Barack Obama declared March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day.
Five years later, President Donald Trump established March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. It recognizes veterans who served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
Longest Conflict in U.S. History
Let’s take a brief look at the Vietnam War’s history. Then we’ll move on to the significance of this annual designation.
The war began as a civil war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. The North was supported by communist allies. Including the Soviet Union and China.
The South was supported by anti-Communist allies. Such as the United States, Australia and South Korea.
From the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, U.S. involvement gradually grew. From a few advisers to a significant force. By July 1965, full combat units were deployed.
In 1975, the longest conflict in U.S. history officially ended. Five U.S. presidents served during this war. It involved some 500,000 U.S. military personnel.
Commemorating the Final Departure
So, why was March 29 selected as National Vietnam War Veterans Day?
Because on this date in 1973, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) was disbanded. The last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam.
That last unit featured special couriers. They were elements of MACV’s Infantry Security Force (Special Guard).
The Vietnam Veterans Day Coalition of States Council petitioned the Trump Administration to make this declaration. The official name of the Act is The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.
The commemoration honors all veterans who served in active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975.
5 War Commemoration Goals
Congress outlined five objectives for the war commemoration:
- Honoring and thanking Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the nation.
- Highlighting the service of our armed forces. And supporting related organizations during the war.
- Paying tribute to wartime contributions at home by American citizens.
- Highlighting technology, science and medical advances made during the war.
- Recognizing former prisoners of war. And families of those still listed as missing in action.
Service and Sacrifice
There are approximately 6 million U.S. Vietnam veterans living in America and abroad. As well as some 9 million families of those who served during this timeframe. That’s according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
There is no distinction made between veterans who served in-country or in-theater. Or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period.
Among those being honored on this day are 58,000 special people. Their names are memorialized on a black granite wall in our nation’s capital.
Plus 304,000 who were wounded. And 1,253 declared missing in action. As well as 2,500 prisoners of war.
8 Ways to Observe the Day
I know many of you reading this served during the Vietnam War. Or in other military conflicts.
Six other military-centric annual observances have been codified. They are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day. Plus National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, Navy Day and Veterans Day.
We at 4Patriots sincerely thank all of you for your heroic service on behalf of our country.
Here are a few ways all of us can observe National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
- Thank a Vietnam veteran.
- Buy a Vietnam veteran lunch or a beverage.
- Visit a local memorial.
- Volunteer to help organize and conduct a related event.
- Support a veterans organization in your community.
- Watch a Vietnam War documentary. Such as The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Or Last Days in Vietnam, a documentary directed by Rory Kennedy. Or Vietnam Nurses, a documentary directed by Polly Watkins.
- Read a book about the Vietnam War. Such as Vietnam: A History, by Stanley Karnow. Or They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America by David Maraniss. Or The Quiet American by Graham Green.
- Fly a flag from your home
Virtual Events and Activities
The pandemic will limit many in-person observances of National Vietnam War Veterans Day today. But there will be plenty of virtual events and activities.
Vietnam veterans can download a virtual frame and place a photo in it on Facebook. Including the wording, “Proud Vietnam War Veteran.”
Those who did not serve in Vietnam can also download a Facebook frame for their photo. Along with the wording, “I support Vietnam War Veterans.”
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is hosting an online commemoration with a live webcast on Facebook.
Vietnam veterans can share their service photos on Facebook. To help the nation remember them for their sacrifice.
Even if we do nothing else today, we should do this. Take a few minutes of silence and reflect on the sacrifice made by Vietnam veterans. They deserve nothing less.