More than 40 years after the war’s end, Vietnam Veterans and their families are still feeling the effects of their service. There are 58,307 names that meet the Department of Defense’s criteria to be listed on The Wall. However, there are many more who returned home, but whose lives were cut short by their service in Vietnam. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) believes that all those who served should be honored and recognized.
In 2004, a plaque was dedicated as part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site. The plaque reads: In Memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.
Since 1999, VVMF’s In Memory program has acknowledged the hardships these Veterans and their families went through after the war ended and honors their sacrifices through a special ceremony. The In Memory program is a way that all Vietnam Veterans can have a connection to The Wall and be honored in the place our country has set aside to honor them.
“The In Memory ceremony is really a healing ceremony for Veteran’s families. Our Veterans gave so much to their country and deserve to be honored. To share memories and acknowledge each other’s suffering gives families validation that their loved ones are not forgotten. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to honor our loved ones in this public ceremony.”
The program is free and the application process is simple. To honor a loved one, you only need to submit the Veteran’s DD214 to show their proof of service in the Vietnam war, a copy of their death certificate and a photograph. The application deadline for inclusion in this year’s ceremony is in March and applications can be submitted here.
Causes of death that fit the criteria for inclusion in the program include exposure to Agent Orange, PTSD-related illnesses/events, cancer, diabetes, heart attack, etc.
In Memory honorees are remembered each June at a special ceremony on the National Mall. Family members and friends of current honorees – as well as all past honorees – are invited to participate and read their loved one’s name in a touching ceremony on the East Knoll of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The In Memory Day ceremony has become a place where families who faced similar hardships gather and help each other begin or continue their healing processes.
“My brother was finally recognized for having served and given his life to his country. When I heard his name read aloud with those other beautiful souls, it took my breath away.”
On the VVMF website, the In Memory Honor Roll recognizes more than 2,500 past inductees. Loved ones and friends can leave remembrances on honorees’ pages.
Jim Knotts is president and CEO of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He is an Air Force Veteran of the Persian Gulf War and a graduate of the Air Force Academy.