Looking Toward Vietnam Veterans Day - March 29

Written by: Dr. Linda Schwartz, VA Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning and DAR member
March 10, 2016

It was a very proud moment when I learned that I was eligible to be a member of DAR. Having a tie to the beginning of our Nation gave me an even greater appreciation for the cherished traditions of duty, honor, country and patriotism that has been with me since childhood.  As I learned more about the extraordinary work and activities of the Daughters, met, and worked with many of you, my admiration grew for the tremendous legacy of service and devotion that has been enhanced and enriched by all that you have and are doing for America’s veterans.

As someone who served on Active Duty with the Air Force during the Vietnam War, survived a serious aircraft accident while on duty, and worked hard to rehabilitate, reeducate, and achieve many milestones along the way to becoming the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning at the VA – I can tell you first-hand how very important your efforts are. Without organizations like DAR working hand in hand with the hard working people of the Department of Veterans Affairs, disabled veterans and their families would have a much tougher road to travel in order to achieve their full potential.

One initiative that I am particularly proud to be promoting at the Department of Veterans Affairs involves our efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. This commemoration is a long-overdue opportunity for all Americans to recognize, honor and thank our Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.

The official commemoration recognizes all men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during the U.S. involvement in Vietnam—November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975.  Nine million Americans, approximately 7.2 million living today, served during that period, and the commemoration makes no distinction between Veterans who served in-country, in-theater or were stationed elsewhere during those 20 years.  All answered the call of duty. If you have not yet become a commemorative partner, you can learn more here: www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald has decided to create a very special and bold event to honor veterans who served during that time span. He has issued a very unique and special message throughout the VA System nationwide regarding the commemoration.  The message issued November 2015 reads “VA Central Office, along with nearly 9,000 organizations across the country, has joined with the Department of Defense as a commemorative partner to honor our Nation’s Vietnam Veterans. I have designated March 29, 2016, as a day for our Department to express our tremendous gratitude and support to this generation of Americans through ceremonies across the nation.”  The date of March 29 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the day when the last American troops left Vietnam in 1973. It serves as the perfect occasion to recognize, honor and thank our Vietnam veterans and their families.

I know many DAR chapters and state societies are active commemorative partners with the Vietnam War 50th Commemoration and March 29 would be a great occasion to join with VA Facilities for a Commemorative Event. I have already heard of many chapters planning special ways to honor their community neighbors who are Vietnam veterans. We are encouraging all citizens across the country to join in and honor our Vietnam veterans on this day. I hope DAR members will help spread this message and plan to get involved as well

As a Vietnam Era Veteran, I was there for our first “welcoming home,” and I can tell you it fell far short of recognizing the extraordinary sacrifices our men and women in uniform made on their nation’s behalf. There were no yellow ribbons. There were no parades or celebrities welcoming the troop’s home. Often there were no flags at half-staff to honor our dead... To be a part of what is expected to be the biggest “Welcome Home” celebration our Vietnam Veterans have ever received is both exciting and truly humbling. Imagine, all across the nation, at VA facilities large and small, on one day, employees, volunteers, and Veterans alike will take a moment to pause and say a long overdue “thank you” to this amazing generation of men and women who once carried their nation’s burdens on their shoulders along with the cause of freedom.

I will be with VA Secretary Bob McDonald and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter as they lay a wreath at the elegant polished black granite Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC  in honor of the more than 58,000 men and women who died in that war. Stand with us on March 29th, if only to pause and remember the millions of Americans who stood not for themselves but for our country in those troubled and turbulent times.

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