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President Barack Obama’s testimonial to the contributions and sacrifices of Vietnam War veterans was long overdue, and Americans should heed the commander in chief’s words in trying to right a terrible wrong.
Sentinel & Enterprise
Posted: 06/03/2012 06:32:49 AM EDT
At a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., Obama urged Americans to mark the 50th anniversary of that ill-fated war by praising the soldiers who served and assisting them with issues they might be facing.
Five decades ago, tens of thousands of soldiers returned from Vietnam to an unwelcome homecoming, physically and psychologically battered from a long, torturous war that resulted in 58,000 American deaths and the perception of a military “defeat.” Soldiers were unjustly blamed for the war’s misguided management by White House politicians who meddled in military strategy and prolonged America’s involvement in a misunderstood foreign battle. Many brave men and women died needlessly; others continue to bear the wounds of combat and the mental scars of fighting a war that grew so unpopular it forced a sitting president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, to decide not to seek re-election.
Unfortunately, the soldiers got stuck with the black stain on America’s image rather than the politicians who deserved it. President Obama said it is time to wipe the slate clean.
“You were sometimes blamed for the misdeeds of a few,” Obama told Vietnam veterans. “You came home and were sometimes denigrated when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened.
“Even though some Americans turned their backs on you, you never turned your backs on America,” said the president.
A majority of Vietnam veterans readjusted to civilian life, went to school, got good jobs, became successful business owners, productive workers and solid citizens and raised families. They put the worst behind them with dignity, despite the cloud that was hung over their heads for years. Obama wants America to show its gratitude to these sons and daughters of liberty once and for all. We agree wholeheartedly.
The president has designated May 28 to Nov. 11 for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. We urge each community to do its part with programs, ceremonies and activities that honor the veterans who did what they were asked to do, without complaint, in that long-ago and much-maligned conflict.
WHO WE ARE: WHERE WE CAME FROM
THANK YOU FOR REMEMBERING
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA’s record of achievement is a profile in tenacity and effectiveness.
In the late 1970’s, with America’s longest and most divisive war just ended, the concerns of Vietnam veterans were not being addressed by the government or the veterans community as a whole. Many still failed to make a distinction between the war and the warrior. Where there was not outright hostility, there was indifference.
In time it became apparent to Vietnam veterans that arguments couched simply in terms of morality, equality, and justice were not enough. Congress would respond to the legitimate needs of Vietnam veterans only when the organization professing to represent them had political strength. By the summer of 1979, the Council of Vietnam Veterans had become the Vietnam Veterans of America., a veteran’s service organization made up of and dedicated to Vietnam veterans.
Our membership growth was slow, we met in various locations around the country. The big breakthrough came when the American hostages were returned from Iran in January 1981. America went through an emotional catharsis that put issues of the Vietnam era on the table for public discussion. The question was asked, why parades for the hostages but not Vietnam veterans. Vietnam veterans wanted action in the form of programs that would place our generation of wartime veterans on the same footing as veterans of previous wars.
The public became more willing to deal with the Vietnam War and the basic issues it raised. The veterans themselves began to come forward and come to terms with their war. All of this culminated in the nation’s dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in November 1982. The week-long activities rekindled a sense of camaraderie among veterans and a feeling that they shared an experience that was too significant to ignore. The American people also realized that the three million men and women who came home from Vietnam had been treated unfairly and with indifference, and many still needed real help.
Throughout the 80’s VVA grew in size and prestige. VVA’s combination of hard-working volunteers and its advocacy, claims work, and other services gained the respect of Congress. VVA’s remarkable efforts and achievements were formally acknowledged by the granting of a Congressional Charter. VVA was the last veteran’s organization so recognized in the 20th century.
Today, Vietnam Veterans of America, takes great pride in its record of accomplishments. For many years, VVA’s motto has been: ”In Service to America.” We look forward to the challenges of veteran’s advocacy in the 21st. Century, and to its own growth and development as a leader among veteran’s service organizations.
VVA’s ambitious agenda has always aimed to find creative, pragmatic solutions to the programmatic concerns of Vietnam-era veterans, their families, and the community.
VVA is an all volunteer, not-for-profit veteran’s organization dedicated to passing on the positive legacy of those who served in the longest war in U.S. history.
Because the Vietnam Veterans of America is an organization made up of those who served during a specific period in history, the members will pass on to become a piece of history. This is not unlike the Grand Army of the Republic, the veteran’s organization for Civil War veterans.
Both served in difficult and divisive conflicts. The confusing nature of service and trying circumstances for each has forged a special bond among the warriors.
May we all learn from their sacrifices? Freedom requires vigilance and civic participation to survive. May those who have served and will serve be remembered, respected, and reintegrated as worthy members of our community. The work of VVA is an example of warriors that continue to serve.
Yours in service,
Richard Earley, President
Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 116
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