The Vietnam War was a long, harrowing experience for America, marked by intense media coverage and political turbulence in all corners of the nation.
General Maxwell Taylor, a leading architect of America’s involvement in the war, called it a “dirty business.” The term “Vietnam Syndrome” was coined in later years by President Ronald Reagan as the American public and politicians began showing reluctance to support any form of international intervention post-Vietnam War.
Besides the trillions of dollars that were consumed by the war and the toll it took on American culture, many men of the United States Armed Forces paid the heavier price, fighting on hostile soil thousands of miles away.
The death toll of American soldiers was 58,200, and the average age of those who were killed was a mere 23 years old. Over 150,000 were injured, and at least 21,000 suffered different forms of permanent disability.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was first recognized among soldiers following the Vietnam War. After more than 50 years, several veterans still battle with the traumas of the war.
And what about the 1,200 soldiers whose bodies have not yet been recovered?
The United States of America does not fail to remember the sacrifices of those who served their country in turbulent times, and the sacrifices of the Vietnam War Veterans have not been dismissed either.
President Barack Obama made a solid move on March 29, 2012, by declaring that day to be National Vietnam War Veterans Day, although this was supposed to be observed as a one-time occasion.
At the time, it was the intention of the President “to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.”
March 29th in particular had been chosen because it marked the disbandment of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), and the departure of the last American combat troops from the Republic of Vietnam in 1973.
According to Obama’s proclamation, the Vietnam War is a story of people from different backgrounds, colors, and creed, drawn from all corners of the United States to embark on a daunting mission in service to their beloved country.
They braved the line of fire, threw themselves into harm’s way to save a comrade, and battled hour after hour, day after day, to protect the liberties we all hold dear.
“From Ia Drang to Hue, they won every major battle of the war and upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces,” the proclamation read.
“Eleven years of combat left their imprint on a generation. Thousands returned home bearing shrapnel and scars; still more were burdened by the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress, of Agent Orange, of memories that would never fade.”
On the 29th of May the same year, the 13-year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War officially began. It will be concluded in 2025.
President Trump sealed the 29th of March as the official day for the remembrance of Vietnam War veterans through the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.
The act includes the National Vietnam War Veterans Day as one of the suggested days on which the US flag should be flown at half-mast.
This recognition and celebration are extended to all service personnel, regardless of gender, who served actively in the US Armed Forces between November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975. In total, 9 million Americans served during this time; out of these, about 6.4 million are still alive.
This special day of remembrance will continue to be observed over the years. The most recent one took place just a little over two weeks ago.
On March 29, 2019, National Vietnam War Veterans Day observances took place all over the country. One of the places that witnessed the event was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC.
The memorial consists of a highly polished black granite wall that is 246 feet and 9 inches long. On the wall’s shiny surface, the names of over 58,320 US service personnel were etched.
At “The Wall,” as it is more popularly known, Vietnam Veteran lapel pins were awarded to a number of veterans by the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Anne Kimberley “Kim” Joiner, on behalf of the Department of Defense.
She also took part in a wreath-laying event at the same location.
The Department of Defense, alongside the Veterans Affairs Department, offered to be commemorative partners in over 1,600 similar occasions in other states across the country.
While the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War continues to be celebrated through to 2025, the Vietnam War Veterans Day will continue to be observed every year on the 29th of March, even after the end of the 13-year-long commemoration of the Vietnam War.