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It took a long time, but a little over a decade ago, a gentleman named Jose Ramos is said to have started the ball rolling on “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Meant to be an annual recognition to all those men and women who served our country during the Vietnam War, it’s long overdue.
While growing in popularity and importance to cities, towns, state houses, communities and families across the United States, the Welcome Home Vietnam Day is serving many purposes. Mainly I think it serves as a day that “official” America can put out the “Welcome Home” mat in a way that didn’t happen during the war.
Why now? So long after these men and women came home? I think it’s because of what Ed Allen got it right, ”It was we, the Vietnam Veterans, who swore that no other generation of veterans would return to what we did, and none have.”
After their return from war, these Vets took up their places in society — raised families, built careers and businesses, served in elected office, voluteered in the community, and remained associated at veterans. In those roles, they made sure that younger generations of warriors came home to the right kind of welcome.
And FINALLY, respect for military service has grown so much that it is extending to the Vietnam Vets who vowed to build that respect for others. They are, at last, tasting the fruit off the trees they planted. A half-century after President Kennedy committed the US to the fray, President Obama proclaimed March 29th to be Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day in the United States.
What Vietnam Veterans have to say about it, and what will come from it
We surveyed the Vietnam Vets who are part of the MyServicePride family. Here’s a sampling of what they told us:
“It’s about time.”
“Too little, too late.”
“Where was it 45 years ago?”
These are common sentiments expressed by a generation of soldiers who were not welcomed home with open arms, Vietnam veterans. Rather, after finally returning home after their tour of duty in the hostile Vietnamese jungles, they were met with a different type of hostility in the States. Protesters who had opposed the government’s decision to go to war directed their misguided anger at soldiers who had simply answered their call to serve our country. There is no doubt that the war was complicated in every sense of the word.
When you are in the midst of the chaos and debate, it is tougher to see where the true injustices are being done. At the end of the war, the unspoken agreement between soldiers and civilians seemed to be to pretend the war had not happened. Being forced to repress memories, emotions, and deep psychological wounds was the most common way for Vietnam veterans to move on with their lives. Decades would pass before the dust would settle enough to see what had happened.
Welcome Home Veterans Day is not intended to be a simple welcome home parade. It carries many different meanings and serves many different purposes.
One Vietnam veteran writes, “I think it just opens up old wounds. I’ve made peace with the loss of life and limbs for nothing.” Some veterans feel that guilt or shame fueled the creation of this day. Maybe they’re right. The day does seem to carry the undertones of a late apology. However, the grassroots movement that started in a Californian town made it all the way to the White House. That is a true testament to the widespread gratitude for our veterans.
The American people have recognized the grave injustice that Vietnam veterans endured. The Vietnam war was one of the most gruesome wars in the history of the world, and yet these veterans returned to a country that largely ignored their pains and scrutinized their actions. This is hard for younger generations to imagine because things have changed. Civilians may not always be able empathize with our military. We lead different lives. But there is a growing truth that authentic gratitude and respect is beneficial for our future as a country.
There is no doubt that this day brings forth the full spectrum of opinions. This day brings to a light a shameful time for a Nation that claims to be united. Hopefully, this day will help remove the taboo and protect our past, present, and future soldiers from this type of misguided scrutiny and persecution. Perhaps, you disagree. We hope that you are able to some type of resolution in another way. Our nation has come a long way since the Vietnam War. We cannot change the past, but we can learn and grow.
“I think the project is a good one as many of my Brothers have yet to be welcomed home.” stated Edward D. Allen. “My primary concern is with those who came home missing limbs and badly wounded. Today, we have “Wounded Warriors” project, but nothing has been done for the Vietnam Veteran who came home to a disrespectful public, an incompetent VA and families who were so overwhelmed that the vet was placed in a Veteran’s home or worse. While I returned from Vietnam in April ’67 and was medically retired, I “came home” at the DC parade in November ’82. It was we, the Vietnam Veterans, who swore that no other generation of veterans would return to what we did, and none have.”
Footage from the November 1982 Parade and Vietnam War Memorial Event in Washington, D.C mentioned by Edward D. Allen (Above)
“I’m a Vietnam vet, and my oldest brother US Army S/Sgt Byron H. Bushay was killed in action 4 Nov 66. This is way over due! CARRY ON!!” Paul Bushay.
Facts from the Vietnam War
There were 8,744,000 US Troops who served worldwide during the Vietnam War, with 2,594,000 serving directly in South Vietnam. Our nation lost 58,000 US Armed Service members with more than 300,000 wounded during the Vietnam War. Learn more about the Vietnam War and historical timeline.
A Commemorative design for 2014
Matt Massie designed this Commemorative for Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day, 2014. The text frames the three awards that veterans would have received for duty in country (including Laos, Cambodia and Thailand).
- The National Defense Service Medal was awarded in different eras, beginning with the Korean War. The period of eligibility coinciding with the Vietnam era began with Executive Order 11265, dated 11 January 1966, amended Executive Order 10488, to include a termination date and authorized the Secretary of Defense to establish periods of eligibility subsequent to 31 December 1960. Eligibility for award, commencing with the period after 31 December 1960, was established by DOD Directive 1348.7, dated 1 April 1966, and terminated effective 15 August 1974, per letter from Manpower and Reserve Affairs, subject: Termination of Eligibility for the National Defense Service Medal, dated 30 June 1974.
- The Vietnam Service Medal was awarded to members of the United Stated Armed Forces who served at anytime from July 4, 1965 to March 28, 1973 in Vietnam or its contiguous waters or airspace. Also awarded for service during the same time in Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand, their airspaces and in direct support of operations in Vietnam.
- The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal was awarded to US Armed Forces Service members who served for at least 6 months between March of 1961 and March of 1973, or who met one of several other qualifications.
Build Your Rack
All three of these awards are in the MyServicePride.com Ribbon Rack Builder, along with all other federal awards and devices, most badges, UN and NATO, many foreign awards, and most National Guard awards.
Are you a Vietnam War Veteran? Or do you know someone who is? Build your rack to visually display your service.