On behalf of the Director of The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, James Jackson, Major General, USA, Retired, we want to share with you some thoughts about planning for your activities and events for our Vietnam veterans and their families. As the end of March approaches, many communities and states commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day on March 29, and Memorial Day is just two months away. It seemed appropriate to send you an update about the Vietnam Commemoration and the role of our DAR state societies and chapters as Commemorative Partners and some ideas.
The Vietnam Commemoration has over 10,600 Commemorative Partners all across the United States and its territories. Nearly 2,000 partners are DAR chapters, 51 State Societies and the national organization. The DAR is the Vietnam Commemoration’s largest and strongest Commemorative Partner with chapters joining every day. In 2016, the DAR conducted over 900 events and those were just the ones reported to us. We know that there were more events out there and we want to hear from you in a short After Action Report about your events. Nationally, 1.4 million veterans have been honored and just over a million Vietnam veteran lapel pins have been distributed to our 10,600+ partner organizations to recognize these veterans. I know that the President General is personally committed to this Commemoration and has highly encouraged continued participation in this national Commemoration. As a Daughter myself, I am always pleased to see the articles in the DAR publications of chapters across the country conducting events for our Vietnam veterans. You are making a difference in the lives of so many veterans and families! THANK YOU!
So, what does it really mean to be a Commemorative Partner? As a partner, you are a representative of a grateful nation whenever you thank and honor a Vietnam veteran or family member. You are in many ways, turning back the pages of history and righting a wrong for some of these veterans and families by simply saying “thank you for your service and sacrifice.” You would be surprised how many Vietnam veterans will tell you that no one has ever said thank you to them and sometimes the reaction is very emotional especially when you present that veteran lapel pin. I believe that one of the legacies of this Commemoration will be the healing that is taking place at every event for Vietnam veterans and their family members. I have spoken with many of you and the experience is a common one. You are witnessing healing in many of our veterans (and family members) when that lapel pin is presented. Some of you have seen the change occur in front of you and many hear the stories of change in a veteran after the event is over.
I am still asked what is a commemorative event or activity. Many of the activities that the DAR already conducts on behalf of veterans “count” as an event. Here are some examples:
- Visiting a senior home and presenting a veteran lapel pin to a Vietnam Veteran
- A chapter function where you invite Vietnam veterans to speak
- Decorating gravesites on Memorial Day
- Planting a tree at your community veterans memorial on Arbor Day
- Greeting an Honor Flight of veterans returning from their trip to Washington D.C.
- Participating in your town’s Flag Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 15 this year or Veteran’s Day ceremonies
- Recognizing a former Vietnam POW or a family who lost a loved one during the war or a family who is still waiting for the fullest possible accounting of their missing and unaccounted for family member...and there are 1,615 families across the country still waiting…by inviting them to a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony in your community.
- Conducting a flag-raising ceremony of the POW/MIA flag or conducting a Missing Man table honors ceremony
- Connect with your local Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives chapters and invite them to a chapter luncheon or activity
- Create patriotic crafts for a Vietnam veteran or family
- Serve a meal at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen and take the time to recognize homeless Vietnam veterans who may be there
- Participate in local parades and carry the commemorative flag and present veteran lapel pins
- Collect oral histories of their hometown veterans. The Library of Congress Veterans History Project has resources that can help you.
- Work with military installations, local veteran service organizations, Sons of the American Revolution, scouting troops and junior/senior ROTC units to provide Color Guards for your events. Many states now have formal events and proclaim Vietnam Veterans Day around the end of March.
- If you live near the state capitol, you can participate in one of their veteran activities.
- If your chapter is near a military installation, ask their Public Affairs Office if you can be part of their open house or community outreach events. You can set up a booth with the materials we will provide you free of charge.
As a Commemorative Partner, your organization has access to the Commemorative Partner Guide which is online in the Commemorative Partner Portal. In this guide are pages of suggested activities. We can provide you lapel pins for our veterans and buttons for family members to wear and other items that each veteran should receive at an event such as the Presidential Proclamation, Commemoration brochure, Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin Fact Sheet that explains the meaning behind the Vietnam Veteran lapel pin. Also, the Commemorative Partner seal is authorized for use by partners the partners for their events as long as it is not affiliated with a fund raiser.
In late October 2016, the Commemoration launched the Certificate of Honor Program which recognizes some special groups. These certificates are only for our partner organizations to order and are accompanied by a lapel pin. The certificates are for our living, former American military Vietnam POWs; for immediate family members of the 58,300+ loved ones lost during the war and who are listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. We also offer certificates for immediate family members of those who are still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War; and finally, we also honor the surviving spouses, at the time of death, of those veterans who served on active duty during the Vietnam War between 1 November 1955 - 15 May 1975, regardless of location of service, and have since passed away. A grateful nation wants these families to know that it has not forgotten their veteran’s and their family’s service and sacrifice even though their veteran is gone. And we will work with you to produce the other three certificates of honor free of charge. I recommend starting with your chapter members first who may be eligible for one of these four certificates and then extend out to your neighbors and community. Word will begin to spread when you begin to recognize your own members. Consider inviting representatives from your local government or veteran organizations to present the certificates at a chapter meeting.
If I can assist you with your chapter activities, please let me know. If you have any questions as to what might be an event or activity, call me, and I’d be happy to brainstorm some ideas with you. DAR and the Commemoration is also fortunate to have Rebecca Bowen-Odom, Commemorative Events Committee National Vice Chair, 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, dedicated to this program on behalf of the DAR. Please feel free to contact her as well.
Thank you, all, for what you are doing in our communities every day and especially for our veterans and their families. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the all DAR state societies and chapters across the nation. Remember to thank a Vietnam Veteran this week!