Holiday honors Vietnam veterans


National Vietnam War Veterans Day is March 29. This date was chosen because on March 29, 1973, the Military Assistance Command Vietnam was deactivated.

This is a national commemorative holiday in the United States. It recognizes the sacrifices of those who served in Vietnam and the sacrifices of their families during the Vietnam War. It is also a day to give proper recognition to those that returned home from Vietnam and did not receive a proper welcome.

On March 29, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 29, 2012, as Vietnam Veterans Day. The proclamation called “upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.”

On Dec. 26, 2016, the Vietnam Veterans Day Coalition of States Council presented a letter to President-elect Donald Trump and Congressional leadership outlining the history and timeline of cause to establish March 29 as Vietnam War Veterans Day and requesting that it be one of the first legislations passed and signed into law during the 115th Congress.

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. This act officially recognizes March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. The act also includes the day among those days on which the U.S. flag should especially be displayed.

The Presidential Proclamation issued by President Trump regarding the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 reads: “To ensure the sacrifices of the 9 million heroes who served during this difficult chapter of our country’s history are remembered for generations to come, I signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, designating March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. Throughout this Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, and every March 29 thereafter, we will honor all those who answered our Nation’s call to duty.”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration honors all United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of where they were stationed. November 1, 1955, was selected to coincide with the official designation of the Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam (MAAG-V). May 15, 1975, marks the end of the battle precipitated by the seizure of the SS Mayaguez.

The Paris Peace Accords were signed on Jan. 27, 1973. It is officially titled the “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam” and is designated as the peace treaty to end the war and restore peace. The treaty included three countries: the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) and the United States of America.

The last of the United States troops were said to be withdrawn on March 29, 1973. It has also been said that 95% of the American troops had been withdrawn by Aug. 15, 1973. The first 20 prisoners of war released from North Vietnam arrived at Travis Air Force Base in California on Feb. 14, 1973. The last North Vietnam POWs were released on March 29, 1973.

The war between North and South Vietnam started back up in March of 1973 and was back at a full-scale war in early 1974. The fall of Saigon took place on April 30, 1975. The American Embassy was evacuated on April 29 and 30. South Vietnam was completely taken over by North Vietnam after 30 years of conflict between the two. On July 2, 1976, the entire country would become the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the country of Vietnam became more gradually controlled by the French. They originally controlled it as a protectorate from 1883 through 1939, then they controlled it as a possession from 1939 through 1945. This changed on Sept. 2, 1945, when the Nationalist leader Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam proclaimed the country’s independence. In December 1946, the First Indochina War began in French Indochina. Most of the combat during this war would take place in South Vietnam, but the conflict managed to engulf the entire country, as well as the surrounding countries of Laos and Cambodia. The conflict ended on May 7, 1954, when guerrilla fighters led by Ho Chi Minh successfully defeated French forces at Dien Bien Phu.

Also known as the Second Indochina War, the Vietnam War was a conflict where the U.S – as well as other members of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) – joined with the South Vietnamese forces to contest Communist forces in North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The war featured U.S. and South Vietnamese regular and guerrilla forces pitted against the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and North Vietnamese guerrillas known as Viet Cong (VC). The United States had the largest foreign military presence and directed the war from 1965 to 1973, which is why this war is widely considered to be an American War, although other countries were involved.

According to the U.S Department of Defense, over 8 million U.S troops served all over the world during Vietnam. Of these 8 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, over 58,000 of them died in-theater.

The Vietnam War was the longest war in United States history. The war was also a very divisive time in the United States, as well as through much of Europe and Australia. Many veterans, who returned home either didn’t receive any recognition for their service, didn’t receive the proper amount of recognition for their service or were outright protested against. These veterans would come home to a country divided over the debate about the war, and many veterans had trouble readjusting to civilian life in the U.S.

As time passed, however, public sentiment about Vietnam veterans began to soften. While many people still viewed the war as wrong, they now felt that veterans of that war were only doing their duty to their county. Nowadays, many Vietnam veterans are finally receiving recognition for their service.

Vietnam War statistics:

• 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam Era (Aug, 5, 1965 – May 7, 1975).

• 8,744,000 personnel were on active duty during the Vietnam War (Aug. 5, 1964 – March, 28 1973).

• 3,403,100 (including 514,300 offshore) personnel served in the SE Asia Theater (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, flight crews based in Thailand and sailors in adjacent South China Sea waters).

• 2,594,000 personnel served within the borders of South Vietnam (Jan. 1, 1965 – March, 28 1973). Contrary to popular belief, according to census records, 75% of those are still alive.

• Another 50,000 men served in Vietnam between 1960 and 1964.

• Of the 2.6 million, between 1 and 1.6 million (40-60%) either fought in combat, provided close combat support or were at least fairly regularly exposed to enemy attack. In 1968, due to the Tet Offensive, a much higher percentage was exposed to combat.

• 7,484 women served in Vietnam, of whom 6,250 or 83.5% were nurses.

• Peak troop strength in Vietnam was 543,482, on April 30, 1969.

• 1,713,823 of those who served in Vietnam were still alive as of August 1995 (census figures). During that same Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served was 9,492,958.

• As of the Census taken during August 2000, the surviving U.S. Vietnam Veteran population estimate is 1,002,511. This is hard to believe, losing nearly 711,000 between 1995 and 2000. That’s 390 per day. During this Census count, the number of Americans falsely claiming to have served in-country was 13,853,027. By this census, FOUR OUT OF FIVE WHO CLAIM TO BE VIETNAM VETS ARE NOT. This makes calculations of those alive, even in 2017, difficult to maintain. We do not understand why those that did not serve would lie about serving in Vietnam when all of us were abused and ignored. We do not like or support any liars.

The Vietnam War was a divisive and difficult time for the United States and many veterans didn’t get the recognition for their service they needed to receive, which is why commemorating this holiday is so important.

It is fitting that we honor and thank those that took an oath “to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America, against all enemies both foreign and domestic.” To this day, Vietnam veterans are still working to maintain the American way of life, while continuing to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States of America.

By Harold B. Wolford

Veterans Corner

Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.

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