VA joins Department of Defense in thanking Vietnam War era Veterans and their families



Around the nation, VA employees are taking the opportunity to thank and honor Vietnam War era Veterans and their families for their incredible service and sacrifices 50 years ago.

March 29 will mark the second celebration of National Vietnam War Veterans Day.  This special day was added to our list of national observances when the president signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.

Led by the Department of Defense, VA sustains more than 465 commemorative partnerships in recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  In fact, VA is proudly hosting more than 775 events to recognize Vietnam-era Veterans who served between Nov 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of duty location around the world as all answered a nation’s call to service. VA also joins more than 11,000 local, state and national organizations who have partnered to assist DoD in honoring the 6.6 million living Vietnam Veterans.

At the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., VA officials will participate in a wreath laying ceremony with Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. Additionally, commemorative lapel pins and coins will be presented to more than a dozen Vietnam War-era Veterans who are part of the event.

“It is really great that this commemoration for Vietnam Vets is taking place now because many Vietnam Vets experienced a lack of acceptance and recognition from the general public for their service,” said Bill Outlaw, a U.S. Air Force Veterans who served in Vietnam in 1970 who works for the Office of Patient Care Services at the Veterans Health Administration.  “They deserve to be thanked and recognized in an official way as this does today.”

The commemoration program launched in 2012 and extends to 2025.  Each year during this period directly coincides with date 50 years ago. Often referred to as a “long overdue tribute” to  Vietnam Veterans, the commemoration enables Americans to “welcome home” these warriors who served during one of the most difficult periods in American history.  Also, the program recognizes and thanks the families of those who also endured the hardships of a nation at war.

The event at the Vietnam Memorial will be special for one gravely-wounded Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran.

“I cannot help but think of the friends I served with in Delta and Lima Company, some of whom are on this Wall, “ said Wayne Cockfield of Florence, South Carolina.  “We were true enough to each other, true to the Marine Corps and true to our country.  It is gratifying to be a part of this commemoration and for my friends on this Wall, I say a profound thank you.”

Commemoration events are taking place at VA national cemeteries, medical centers, regional offices and Vet Centers.  Commemorative partners conduct or participate in events throughout the year during local VA town hall meetings, Veterans service organization hosted events, professional sporting events and national federal holidays such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

Learn more at www.Vietnamwar50th.com

Author

Joe Curtin

Joe Curtin, an Army Veteran, is the director of VA’s National Veterans Outreach Office. The National Veterans Outreach Office leads, coordinates and reports outreach program activities and communications throughout VA to increase Veterans’ awareness of VA’s healthcare, benefits and services, as well as how to apply for them.

Comments

  1. Susan Pindak    

    Saturday, March 31st, 10 AM-3 PM in Pomona, CA

    Salute to Our Vietnam Veterans
    and All Veterans

    Remembering Those Who Served Our Country,
    Veteran Suicide Prevention,
    Monument Ground-breaking Ceremony

    Veteran’s Park, 1945 Mission Blvd.
    Pomona, CA 91766

    1. Linda Dixon    

      Thank you to our Vietnam Veterans and all of our veterans and active duty members. God Bless you and your families!!

  2. Michelle Erkenbeck    

    Why don’t you guys try to get an increase in our monthly rates. Real estate is outrageous here because of rich Californians buying up view property and putting million dollar homes up. Can’t get anything decent under $380,000. I’m sick of living in my rv for 6 years now.

  3. ron schrand    

    how nice you waited till were almost dead. thanks again

    1. Patrick Hayes    

      Ron, exactly what I thought – too little, too late!

  4. Gus Vess    

    It’s about time for Vietnam Veterans to be thanked and welcome home, especially if you returned through Oakland California and were spit on and called baby killers. I was given a bus ticket to Dallas, Texas and hitch hiked home from there.

    1. Stan E. Karber    

      The Myth of the Spitting Antiwar Protester
      JERRY LEMBCKE

      “So where do these stories come from?”

      The reporter was asking about accounts that soldiers returning from Vietnam had been spat on by antiwar activists. I had told her the stories were not true. I told her that, on the contrary, opponents of the war had actually tried to recruit returning veterans. I told her about a 1971 Harris Poll survey that found that 99 percent of veterans said their reception from friends and family had been friendly, and 94 percent said their reception from age-group peers, the population most likely to have included the spitters, was friendly.

      A follow-up poll, conducted in 1979 for the Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs), reported that former antiwar activists had warmer feelings toward Vietnam veterans than toward congressional leaders or even their erstwhile fellow travelers in the movement.

      I was glad the reporter was interested in the origin of these stories, because beginning even before the war ended, news organizations had too often simply repeated them — even though some stories had the hallmarks of tall tales all over them. Even The Times once quoted, matter-of-factly, a veteran telling of how he arrived stateside from Vietnam on a stretcher with a bullet in his leg, only to be splattered with rotten vegetables and spat on by antiwar college kids.

      Whoppers like these go unchallenged by reporters and scholars perhaps because of their memoirist first-person quality, stories told by the men who say it happened to them. I collect the stories, I told the reporter, and have a spreadsheet with about 220 first-person “I was spat on” accounts.
      But you don’t believe the stories, right? she asked. Acknowledging that I could not prove the negative — that they were not true — I went on to say there is no corroboration or documentary evidence, such as newspaper reports from the time, that they are true. Many of the stories have implausible details, like returning soldiers deplaning at San Francisco Airport, where they were met by groups of spitting hippies. In fact, return flights landed at military air bases like Travis, from which protesters would have been barred. Others include claims that military authorities told them on returning flights to change into civilian clothes upon arrival lest they be attacked by protesters. Trash cans at the Los Angeles airport were piled high with abandoned uniforms, according to one eyewitness, a sight that would surely have been documented by news photographers — if it had existed.
      Listeners, I speculated, are loath to question the truth of the stories lest aspersion be seemingly cast on the authenticity of the teller. The war in Vietnam was America’s longest war at the time, and its first defeat. The loss to such a small, underdeveloped and outgunned nation was a tough pill for Americans to swallow, many still basking in post-World War II triumphalism. The image of protesters spitting on troops enlivened notions that the military mission had been compromised, even betrayed, by weak-kneed liberalism in Congress and seditious radicalism on college campuses. The spitting stories provided reassuring confirmation that had it not been for those duplicitous fifth-columnists, the Vietnamese would have never beaten us.
      The “war at home” phrase captured the idea that the war had been lost on the home front. It was a story line promulgated by Hollywood within which veteran disparagement became a kind of “war story,” a way of credentialing the warrior bona fides of veterans who may have felt insecure about their service in Vietnam. In “First Blood,” the inaugural Rambo film, the protagonist, John Rambo, flashes back to “those maggots at the airport, spittin’, callin’ us baby killers and all kinds of vile crap.” The series supported the idea that decisions in Washington had hamstrung military operations. “Apocalypse Now” fed outright conspiracy theories that the C.I.A.’s secret war run from Washington had undercut the military mission. “Coming Home” and “Hamburger Hill” played on male fears of unfaithful wives and girlfriends, a story line hinting that female perfidy and the feminist subversion of warrior morale had cost us victory.
      Women had been prominent in the opposition to the war. Two organizations, Women Strike for Peace and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, led early protests; Cora Weiss, Jane Fonda and Joan Baez lent their social and celebrity standing to the efforts to end the fighting. New Left organizations such as the campus-based Students for a Democratic Society intersected with the burgeoning women’s movement to boost young women into leadership roles in the antiwar movement. Placards reading “Girls Say Yes to Boys Who Say No” — no to the draft, that is — lent credence to the fears of conservatives who were pro-war and distraught over loosening strictures on premarital sex and believed that the rising of the women meant societal collapse.
      The adoption of long hair, embroidered shirts and bell-bottom pants, and general rejection of military bearing by men in the movement evinced a softening of conventional sex-gender boundaries. By the late 1960s, troops in Vietnam were battling authorities over hair length, and the right to wear love-bead necklaces and draw peace symbols on their helmets.
      Finger pointing for the loss of the war began even before it was over. The pacifists and radicals who stoked the antiwar movement were easy targets for the patriotic right wing looking for scapegoats, but the visibility of women in the resistance to the war made them suspects as well. After Ms. Fonda went to North Vietnam on a peace mission in 1972, she was denounced as a traitor in profanely sexist language and tarred as “Hanoi Jane.” Years later, the feminist author Susan Faludi wrote that fears of emasculation having cost America its victory in Vietnam were the basis of a backlash against women in the 1980s.
      But, the reporter pressed, why spitting? Resisting the urge to plunge into the Freudian exegesis I wanted to take, I pointed to the long history of spitting imagery in legends of betrayal. In the New Testament, Christ’s followers spit on him in renunciation of their loyalty. Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, soldiers returning from the front claimed to have been spat on by women and girls. The German stories were studied by historians and found to be part of the “Dolchstosslegende,” or stab-in-the-back legend, that the military had been betrayed behind the lines, sold out at home.
      Anticipating the question, I agreed that the presence of such stories in religious teachings and myths only pressed more questions to the fore about where the biblical Apostles and German folklorists got them, questions that will keep professors and students of cultural studies occupied for years.

      But, I ventured, where the stories go — how they play out in the political culture — is more important than where they come from. The reporter seemed interested. In Germany, I recalled, the imagery of shellshocked World War I veterans became a stand-in for the nation’s lost pride and damaged sense of racial superiority. The riffs of betrayal in the photographs, films and news reports of veterans made victims by war kept alive the certainty that enemies outside the gates could never defeat a rearmed and unified Germany; the stories incited a dangerous witch hunt that led to the Holocaust.
      Is the abiding American discomfort with the war it lost in Vietnam and the enduring allure of the spat-upon veteran stories indicative of betrayal preoccupations at work in our own culture? Is it the post-Vietnam lost-war narrative that feeds the back-to-the-future sentiments in campaign promises to restore and rebuild America? And are the recent public and political spectacles of nativism and gun-toting masculinity symptoms of a wounded people more than deviant personalities?
      The reporter was interested.

  5. Just another Vietnam vet    

    America! Where were you 48 years ago when I really needed you. Now it’s too late. I’m just an old broken down vet waiting to pass on to the other side of the Wall.

  6. Vincent Hill    

    Semper Fi, rest in peace brothers! To the rest that still survive “Welcome Home”!

  7. Suzanne Baltz Glasco    

    Thank you for honoring our veterans. I lost one 10 years ago as a result of agent orange. I am married to another one for a year now. He has PTSD from his tour of duty. He has good days and bad.

  8. James Robert Dupree    

    Memorials are nice but… practically speaking, we need someone to fix the VA in general. I know first hand of the ‘run around’ we encounter from the VA each time we seek medical help or benefits. I was a USMC combat veteran in Vietnam (Agent Orange) and returned to nothing but ridicule and disrespect. I was also stationed at New River Air Station upon return ( Camp Lejune toxic water) which has left me with Lupus, nightmares among other physical maladies. My experience with most of the people in the VA has been horrifying (a very few exceptions). The phone system is paralyzing and the claim system is worse than that. PLEASE FIX THOSE THINGS and particularly the VA in Atlanta where with only a few exceptions we encounter people who make it very clear that they could care less about what we may be going through.

  9. John Fleming    

    Why do all the photos of Viet- Era vets hAVE GUYS WITH BEER GUTS, BEARDS, WEARING LEVI JACKETS WITH ALL KINDS OF PATCHES SEWED ON THEM.?Sorry about the caps- been trying since Oct to get my right eye fixed through VA.Most of us dont look like, nor act like burned out 60’s hippies

  10. John Fleming    

    I am tired of having the image of Viet Vets being a bunch of losers

  11. Don davis    

    The way that the general public made me feel when I came home they made me feel ashamed that I was fighting for my country and I hid the fact for many years now the same people are in many government services, still looking down on us

  12. Robert Bowdish    

    The ceremony I attended yesterday was incredible. The civilian community turned out in incredible numbers. We had no idea, as we assembled in one room and were led to another. As the door opened for us, we saw a gauntlet of cheering and clapping civilians and children shouting “Welcome Home” and “Thank You”.
    After the ceremony, there were refreshments with troops of Girl Scouts passing out boxes of cookies with hand made thank you cards. As perhaps you can tell, I was truly touched.
    Yes, it is 50 years late, but it happened!!

  13. robert saffles    

    im a 100 per cent disabled vet. why do we always get shabby treatment and have to live below poverty every day and come veterans day we are allowed to be special

  14. Wayne Castleberry    

    Not enough for these veterans who went through hell on earth, to come home and be spit on and called “baby killers”. We can’t do enough for these men and women who had to endure that!

  15. Troy Thomas Heikkala    

    So the government wants to honor us for being coerced into participating in a decade long holocaust so corporations can rape the people and land of Vietnam of its resources.

    No thanks. Please don’t ever thank me. An apology would be appropriate as well as reparations for us veterans and the people of Vietnam

  16. Bob Underwood    

    Arrived home at Travis AFB in Oakland, on Feb 14, 1970, to no fanfare and no protesters. Came home to Paramount, Ca. And have not experienced a bad comment or desecration since. The VA (Long Beach CA) has treated me with respect and dignity on every visit (dozens, so far). Have had many appointments. Never been lied to or disregarded in any way shape or form.
    I was drafted in 1968 and went reluctantly. Served in Tay Ninh, Vietnam through all of 1969 and Jan 1970 with the 25th infantry. Came home with a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and 3 Second. This country owes me nothing.

  17. Stevie Clinton Clinton sr    

    I served 2 tours in nam 1968 and 1971.wounded several times
    I now live on 40 pills a day and a measly ads disability check.ive got 6 appeals that’s been on going for 10 yrs now.guess they’re waiting for me to roll over in my grave so Congress won’t have to pay up what they owe me.when Congress spends their money they will see my face.to all vets like myself god bless you n welcome home my brothers n sisters. Sgt Stevie Ray Clinton sr fla

  18. mike perry    

    james dupree, i agree with you 100%, talk is cheap and so are memorials. thank god i have nothing major at this time but when i am at the VA hospital and see so many hurting vets. i know out VA hospital is very busy, but sometimes these vets are treated or i mean taken care of worst than pet animals. my care has been decent but don’t know about all others. achange or improvement would be welcomed. take care all

    1. James Robert Dupree    

      Thanks Mike. I should be more grateful and trying to be but… treatment in the Atlanta system overcomes my at times…

  19. Edward Arnold    

    Hello all, I sympathize with so many veterans negative opinions about the VA, however, not everyone feels this way. I have been going to the Hines VA near Chicago for over a year now and I have found them to be extremely professional, friendly and more than willing to go out of their way to help everyone. I couldn’t be happier with their treatment of veterans.

    1. Greg Cooley    

      I could not agree with you more. God bless Hines VA and all of the great people that work at this hospital.

  20. Gene Berard    

    Too little, too late. I am an Air Force vet who was forces out of service because of lack of recognition for my mental health issues caused by this senseless war. I too was spit on, called a baby killer and had rocks and things thrown at me if I went in uniform in public. Now when I’ve sought help for PTSD I get told by the VA shrinks that what happened 50 years ago isn’t important today anymore than it was then. It’s long past time to give us the care we earned through our service to our country.

  21. Maurice Demers    

    Thank you! I served on the American Front helping to care for casualties and their families at Ft. Sam Houston and Fitzsimons General Hospital. I definitely was a part of the war effort and I definitely carried some baggage for several years after coming home. No parades. Just went out and looked for work. It feels good to finally be recognized as a legitimate Viet Nam War vet. I didn’t run to Canada., I served!

  22. Gary Janes    

    I am a Vietnam Vet, was in Nam in 1968 for Tet. went back in 1970,71 and 72. I was exposed to Agent Orange and now have several medical conditions because of it. The Seattle VA was great until about 8 years ago. During the Obama era things went to hell. I pray that Trump will get things moving in the right direction again.

  23. KEVIN MURPHY    

    From coming home from Vietnam and being treated with no respect and looked down on.
    I put in for disability 4 years ago and was denied. I have a representative and we put in for a hearing and it’s been over 3 years and nothing.
    I’ll be dead before i get this. Once again treated with no repeat and like i don’t matter. Thanks

  24. Ricky Kinnison    

    We All, know the saying. ” Too Little, Too Late” Thanks and all. But WE! Think the money being spent to say, thanks. For something you should have said it for, 50 years ago. Because the ones of us still alive. Are Too broken down, to care. Spend that money. Where it will do some good. Give tat money, to us. You know. The ones your saying thank you to. We really dont give a s(redacted)t about parades. We would rather have a house over our heads and be able to afford to eat. But Ya,,, Thanks anyway

  25. Michael Smidt    

    Why is the military and VA still considering us as “Vietnam War era veterans” and not “Vietnam War” veterans? It makes it seem as if the time spent in Vietnam had no special significance. Folks who spent no time in Vietnam received the same benefits and what little recognition we did.

  26. Thomas R. Goodwin    

    Already sent my comment. WHERE IS IT?

  27. Gary Westman    

    I developed a hearing loss from my time in the Air Force during the Era. Contacted the VA to get evaluated and was told that I don’t qualify. So glad our government is honoring their promise to us.

  28. Rod Miller    

    I agree with a lot of you guys! I’m a 100% Disabled Vietnam Veteran that ate a VC Rocket on Oct 5th 1969 and suffer from just about everything and buying time! Was with the US Army’s 1st Infantry Combat Division in Corps III and take pride in my service to my country and have attended many Vietnam Veterans Rallies and gatherings. I wear regular clothes and maybe a cap that has my branch of service and unit on it. Then you see these guys dressed like war mongers and look ready to go fight a war, then you find out they are Vietnam ERA Veterans and never got close to a conflict! These are the ones that piss me off! Era Vets served a purpose and we that were on the Hot-seat appreciate what they have done for us but don’t walk around looking like you just came off the battle field!

  29. Thomas R. Goodwin    

    I left a comment previously. Not posted. I am a 70 year old cancer sufferer; Vietnam combat service 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971. Infantry. Not surprising that my comment was not posted. I understand that whoever decides to post or just delete the comments is sensitive about this. Our pain is not their pain; tough times to them is a snowstorm or power failure, not eating out of a dumpster or table scraps at McDonald’s or sleeping in a cardboard box. Now there are veterans from Iraq who cannot get in the front door. The President should know about this.

  30. Donald Duck    

    Wow more smoke and mirrors from the VA. They can spend millions for4 furniture, Websites, lousy info that is hard to find and usually useless when you do find it;they haven’t done much for us Vietnam vet’s and no we are supposed to be impressed because we have a new tracking method? 80% of the homeless in the USA are vet’s. Do you think they care? Just remember the VA slogan, delay deny and let them die. That is our nations gift to the Vietnam Vet.

  31. Thomas R. Goodwin    

    I see that the number of Vietnam “era” veterans is used because the numbers of actual in-country veterans that still survive is not complimentary to the VA. Approximately 2,700,000 actually served in country in the Republic of Vietnam; it is unclear the actual number as this may or may not reflect the numbers of veterans with multiple tours. The VA is as disingenuous as always. Health issues (mental as well as physical) of actual in-country veterans will be different from the problems of all those who did their service outside of the Republic. Veterans who suffer from Agent Orange caused problems should be in a class of their own, but to skew the numbers of VA treated survivors they are not stated separately. Those of us who actually served in-country and the few who actually served in combat are dying at a rate about twice as high as veterans from WW II did in the same age groups. The award of any kind of pins or other trinkets will not affect that sad figure.

  32. Gary R. Gagne    

    I came home.and had a coke thrown on me and was called “a baby killer”.I filed over three years ago because of agent orange, cancer been waiting wanting this settled for my wife, children & grandchildren. VA said at least two more years. My Hematologist, Oncologist wrote the VA a letter saying I’m terminal, would the VA please speed things up. From two years now it’s only 15 months. Unfortunately I don’t have 15 months. As for Jane Fonda I hope she goes before me because I’d love to water the flowers on her grave. USMC & proud.

  33. D Lynch    

    Thank-you for your service. I had radiation therapy but my PSA shot up about a year later.The VA said I had “notable improvement”. I’m on Hormone therapy to fight the cancer now.. Sorry for you and your family, Ex-Sentry Dog Handler.

  34. William Stern    

    Fortunately, my experience with the VA mirrors that of Mr Underwood on a previous post. Arrived home from Vietnam in March 1970 to family and friends waiting for me at the bus stop in the small town of Sanborn, MN. Now I have a great family of my own,
    The VA (Minneapolis, MN) has treated me with respect and dignity on every visit. I also have had many appointments, almost always getting the care I need within a very reasonable amount of time. My Primary Dr goes out of her way to insure I am satisfied with the care I receive and communicates results of tests in a very timely manner.
    I enlisted in 1968 and served with the Big Red One through all of 1969 and the first three months of 1970. Very proud of that and proud of the way our Country has bounced back to honor the Vietnam Veteran! The Vietnam Memorial is one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had!

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