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March 29 & 30: The Right Time to Bring Overdue Honor to a Vietnam Vet

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Time may not heal all wounds, but perhaps it gives us the opportunity to right some wrongs.

That’s what the nation has to offer Vietnam Veterans more than 50 years after they were swept into that conflict in January 1962. More than 3 million Americans served in the 11-year Vietnam War; 58,000 of them died in combat; thousands more suffered immeasurably from post traumatic stress disorder, physical after-effects of Agent Orange, and the painful memories of being spat upon and harangued by war protesters upon their return home. 

Vietnam_memorialAs written in the Vietnam Veterans Day Presidential Proclamation by Barack Obama in March 2012, “on March 29, 1973, the last of our troops left Vietnam. Yet, in one of the war’s most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected — to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example. We must never let this happen again. Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations:  to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us. Half a century after those helicopters swept off the ground and into the annals of history, we pay tribute to the fallen, the missing, the wounded, the millions who served, and the millions more who awaited their return. Our Nation stands stronger for their service, and on Vietnam Veterans Day, we honor their proud legacy with our deepest gratitude.”

While the national commemoration to honor Vietnam veterans is March 29, Ohio selected March 30 as this state’s Vietnam War Veterans Day. Ohio vets expressed concern about celebrating their service on March 29, which was not only the date when U.S. forces left Vietnam, but it’s also the date when Lt. William Calley Jr. was convicted in the killing of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre. So Ohio veterans groups endorsed March 30 as the official date to honor vets in this state.

Ohio is one of about 35 states with an official Vietnam Veterans Day. There is no permanent day nationally, although President Obama proclaimed Vietnam Veterans Day on March 29, 2012, to mark the war’s 50th anniversary.

About 300,000 Ohioans — roughly one-third of all its living veterans — served during the Vietnam era. Some people may question whether the day specific to Vietnam vets is necessary, considering we already observe a national Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day.

But for countless Vietnam vets with vivid memories of protesters spitting on their military uniforms, this is a long-awaited way to welcome home those who never felt welcomed back from war 50+ years ago. Vietnam veterans have waited a long time for something that validates their service… and it’s not too late to thank them now.

For local veterans services, contact the Portage Veteran’s Service Center, 449 S. Meridian Street in Ravenna; (330) 297-3545; www.Portageco.com. In Geauga County, contact the Veterans’ Service Commission at 470 Center Street, Building #8-A in Chardon; (440) 279-1860; www.co.geauga.oh.us/Departments/VeteransService.aspx.