Become a Commemorative Partner with the Vietnam War Commemoration

Written by: Yvonne Schilz, Vietnam War Commemoration, Chief of the Commemorative Partner Program
November 10, 2014

On behalf of The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, we are grateful for the President General’s invitation to share with you some thoughts about planning for your activities and events for the coming years for our Vietnam veterans and their families.  As Veterans Day approaches, it seemed appropriate to send you information about the Commemoration and the role of our DAR state societies and chapters as commemorative partners and some ideas.  

Vietnam War Commemoration Overview

Congress passed legislation authorizing the Secretary of Defense to establish The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration with the primary mission of thanking and honoring Vietnam veterans (and that includes Vietnam-era veterans) and their families.  This is a national commemoration and follows in the footsteps of the World War II and Korean War 50th and 60th anniversary commemorations.  The Secretary of Defense established the Vietnam War Commemoration under his office, and on Memorial Day 2012, it was officially launched by the President of the United States.

The Commemoration’s mission from Congress is quite simple…assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring the veterans of the Vietnam War and their families.  Vietnam veterans are the centerpiece of events or activities conducted under the auspices of the Commemoration, but at these events or activities we should honor other generations of veterans and their families who served and sacrificed especially WWII, Korea, the Cold War, Desert Storm, Panama and Grenada, and currently serving servicewomen and men. There is such a strong connection between the current serving generation of veterans and our Vietnam generation mainly because the Vietnam generation of veterans wants to ensure the treatment our current service members receive is very different than what many of them experienced when they served.

Commemorative Partners

Commemoration events will include international as well as national and regional activities. But the bulk of the events and activities will be done in the hometowns of the Vietnam veterans and their families.  We want to honor them in their hometowns.  To accomplish this, the Commemoration is recruiting commemorative partners all across the United States and its territories.  Our more than 6,700 partners are all over the country and are organizations such as states, cities, towns, corporations, associations, schools from elementary to university level, military installations, medical and senior living facilities, veteran service organizations, small businesses, media outlets, and of course, DAR state societies and chapters to name just a few. And by the way, with over 600 state societies and chapters as partners already, the DAR is the Commemoration’s fastest growing commemorative partner with more joining every day.  I know that our President General is personally committed to this Commemoration and has highly encouraged the state societies and chapters to join as a commemorative partner.  In fact, the Commemoration is mentioned twice in the current issue of Daughters newsletter! 

There is a natural connection between the DAR and honoring veterans and military families. Promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and educating our children, in this case, about military service during the Vietnam War period.  The millions of service hours that you already do include working with veterans and military families.  The Commemoration activities and events you do will only add to that legacy of service for which DAR is known.

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 button.  For those of you attended Congress this past summer, you may have seen the “Thank you for your Service” video of the Vietnam veteran in the diner.  It is a powerfully emotional video that really captures why this national Commemoration is so important for this generation of veterans and our country. You can view this wonderful video on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2L3skZ7FEw

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.

As many of you know, it costs absolutely nothing to become a commemorative partner and the Commemoration will provide you a starter kit with the commemorative flag and a certificate signed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. You also receive the Presidential Proclamation and a Congressional objectives poster of the Commemoration.  All we ask in return is that each partner conduct two events or activities each year in 2015, 2016 and 2017 that thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families.

What is a Commemorative Event or Activity?   

Many of the activities that the DAR already conducts on behalf of veterans “count” as an event.  Activities or events may include:

  • Visit a senior home and present a veteran button to a Vietnam Veteran 
  • A chapter function where you invite Vietnam veterans to speak
  • Decorate gravesites
  • Plant a tree at your community veterans memorial on Arbor Day
  • Greet an Honor Flight of veterans returning from their trip to Washington DC
  • Participate in your town’s Flag Day, Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day ceremonies
  • Invite 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 1,639 families across the country still waiting…to a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony in your community. 
  • Connect with your local Gold Star Mothers and Gold Star Wives chapters and invite them to a chapter luncheon or activity. 
  • Chapters could 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 buttons.
  • 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.  Right now, there are 35 states and territories signed up as well as 40 state-level Veterans Affairs offices and 53 Adjutants General.  These offices and the county-level VA offices are also good places to find out about veteran-oriented events. 
  • 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 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. 

Take Credit for Work You Are Already Doing!

The bottom line is that we want you to take credit for the work you are already doing at the state society and chapter level to thank and honor our Vietnam veterans and their families.  As you can see, the activities and events don’t have to be elaborate and there are many things organizations can do to help assist this grateful nation honor its Vietnam veterans and their families without spending additional funds. We can provide you buttons for our veterans and family members to wear and other items like bumper stickers, proclamations, and stickers.  Also, the commemorative partner seal is authorized for use by the partners for their events as long as it is not affiliated with a fund raiser.

Certificate of Honor Program

On behalf of a grateful nation, the Commemoration also offers a certificate of honor program which recognizes some special groups.  These certificates are accompanied with a lapel pin for our living former 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, and there are 1,639 families nation-wide at this time.  We also honor the spouses of those veterans who served in the Vietnam War theater of operations, returned home and have since passed away.  A grateful nation wants them to know that it has not forgotten their veteran’s and their family’s service and sacrifice even though the veteran is gone.  We will work with you to produce these certificates of honor free of charge. 

In addition, there is a NSDAR Vietnam War Veteran Certificate available on the Commemorative Events committee page on the Members’ Website for chapters to present to Vietnam War veterans.

As a Commemorative Partner – Where Do You Start? 

If I may use an analogy from the DAR website…”First rule of genealogy…start with what you know.”  Start with recognizing your chapter members and then reach out to your community.  Perhaps there are Daughters in your chapters who fit into one of those certificate of honor categories or maybe they are a Vietnam veteran or a family member from the Vietnam generation.   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.  By the way, as you conduct your events outside the organization, you may find the opportunity to talk to prospects about the DAR!  That is a win-win situation for everyone.  We have been working with a Gold Star Wives chapter in Tennessee who started presenting the deceased spouse certificates for her chapter.  Her attendance went from an average of 8 members a meeting to over 55 each month.  She has local government officials and a Congressman come in and present these certificates to the spouses and family members in the community.

Since you are representing a grateful nation when you present veteran buttons or the certificates of honor, we’ll give you a presenter letter with the suggested words to present them.  Presentations of these certificates of honor can be considered an event or activity. 

Commemorative partners that are in the same community may conduct events together and each will receive credit for that event.  We encourage you to work with veteran organizations such as the American Legion, VFW, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Gold Star and Blue Star organizations, schools, museums, etc. in your area to do events together.  Another group to work with is your local funeral and cemetery directors.  They know who the deceased veterans are and can assist you in honoring their families. Finally, help us find the immediate family members (parents, spouses, siblings and children) in your hometowns who lost a loved one during Vietnam, particularly the parents most of whom are in their late eighties and nineties. 

We’re Here to Help

We know that money and woman power is at a premium these days with all that the DAR does in our communities.   I’ve talked with chapters who feel they are too small or money is an issue.  I tell them the same things I have just told you, and I haven’t had anyone tell me they still couldn’t do it. 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 are also fortunate to have Lynda Closson, National Vice Chair, 50th Anniversary Vietnam Commemoration Event, dedicated to this program on behalf of the DAR.  Her enthusiasm and determination is exactly what we look for in our partners. 

For those DAR organizations who have joined as partners, thank you, for those who haven’t yet, please consider. 

Powerful Examples of What Commemoration Outreach Means to Families

I mentioned healing as a legacy of this Commemoration and how powerful a simple act of thanking someone for their service or their family can be. As we go around the country, we meet veterans and family members.  We receive phone calls every day from people who have been honored with a certificate of honor or received a veteran button telling us how much it meant to them.  I’d like to share just two short stories with you.  We were notified of a Gold Star Mother in New York who lost her only son in Vietnam and was now in hospice.  The Department President of New York Gold Star Mothers personally delivered her certificate of honor to her and her family, and when she died a couple days later on Patriots Day 2013, her family asked to have the certificate displayed at her viewing in the funeral home. Along with her Gold Star Lapel Button which she proudly wore for many years, they were the only two items next to her casket.

DAR understands the importance of education.  In late September, during Gold Star Mothers Mother’s Day weekend, I was with some Gold Star Mothers at the Vietnam Women’s Memorial near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.  I witnessed a little boy ask a Gold Star Mother standing next to me why everyone was wearing all white.  She knelt down and very gently explained how these mothers’ sons and daughters went into the military to serve their country and died while doing so, and that that they wear white in tribute to them.  That little boy’s eyes never left hers the entire time she talked to him.  And for those of us that were witnesses, there wasn’t a dry eye around.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.  I know that little boy will never forget that moment and neither will I.  I have a picture of that moment that I will always treasure.

Madame President General, thank you, again, for the invitation to provide this long blog.  As a retired military officer and the proud daughter of a Vietnam veteran, and as a fellow DAR member, and on behalf of Mick Kicklighter, LTG, USA, Retired, and the entire Commemoration team, 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 partnering with the all DAR state societies and chapters across the nation.  God Bless America.

Contact Information:

Yvonne Schilz                                                                                                    
The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration                                    
Chief, Commemorative Partner Program & POW/MIA Liaison                      
1101 Wilson Blvd, Suite 810                                                                         
Arlington, VA 22209                                                                                       
703-697-4919 (Office)
Yvonne.e.schilz.civ@mail.mil
 
Lynda Closson
National Vice Chair, 50th Anniversary Vietnam Commemoration Event
KyLynda1776@gmail.com
606-365-1776 (home)

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