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March 29 –   Vietnam Veteran’s Day

In 2017 President Trump designated March 29 as Vietnam Veteran’s Day. It commemorates the date  the last combat troops left Vietnam. 2,709,918 service men and women fought in Vietnam. Of those approximately 850,000 are alive today.

The Vietnam Era was a difficult time in our history. The country was divided. Those who fought were vilified. There was confusion as to the “what” and “why” of this war. Yet nearly three million Americans went to Southeast Asia and over 50,000 didn’t return. Those who served must be remembered. They sacrificed in some cases everything to show their belief in MacArthur’s famous phrase “Duty, Honor, Country.”

If you haven’t served in the military, it’s difficult to understand. Those who served, stand just a bit taller when the flag goes by in a parade. Their hearts beat a tad faster during the national anthem at a football game. Once I saw a tear in the eye of a former airman when “off we go into the wild blue yonder…” was sung. It’s one thing to think about military service, it’s another to actually DO it.

Vietnam was a time of the draft. Some who went had no choice. In any event, they served, many heroically, to represent their country. War isn’t pretty. Its goal is to kill, maim, and destroy. Yet, it is sometimes necessary if we are to maintain our freedom and way of life.

When my officer training class meets for a reunion every five years or so, it gets smaller and smaller. We talk about our missing comrades. We talk about some memories. But we seldom talk about actual fighting. Each person who went to war sees it in their own way. And it often affects them forever.

Whether you marched in the streets condemning the war or got on the planes and ships and went off to fight, take a few minutes today and remember. If you know someone who served, shake his or her hand and thank them. Better late than never. If the person you meet is over 70, the chances are they were on one side or the other.

JVH

(Full disclosure: I was in the Army during Vietnam, but through the vagaries of the personnel office, never set foot in country. I had no clue there was a “Vietnam Veteran’s Day.” Thanks, Barbara, for the heads up.)

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