On National Vietnam War Veterans Day, we honor all those who bravely served in the Vietnam War and who sacrificed, as did their families and caregivers.
Since the birth of the United States, no single generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending freedom by force of arms. More than 44 million American men and women have sacrificed and served in times of war.
In 2008, the Secretary of Defense was authorized by law to conduct a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
All military families endure the hardship of separation, uncertainty and fear, but the families of our Vietnam Veterans also witnessed their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and fathers and mothers returning home to a nation in turmoil. They watched as the vast majority received no formal recognition for their service and weren’t welcomed home in ceremonies hosted by their communities.
Many unseen injuries went undiagnosed
Like Veterans returning from today’s battlefields, those who served in Vietnam came home with both physical and unseen injuries of war. Many of the unseen injuries suffered by our Vietnam Veterans went undiagnosed and weren’t understood by our medical community or citizens as they are now. Veterans were left to meet these challenges without the assistance available today.
History makes clear the importance of this Commemoration. Vietnam was a long war, and accordingly, a long commemoration period is planned. By presidential proclamation, the Commemoration extends from Memorial Day 2012 through Veterans Day 2025.
No distinction is being made between Veterans who served in-country, in-theater or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period. All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority served honorably and admirably.
58,307 names appear on the Wall in Washington, D.C. The average age of those name at death… 23. Many tens of thousands were disabled. Approximately 7,500 women, the majority of whom were nurses, served in Vietnam.
1,627 are still considered missing in action and their families await word of their fate.
The foundations of today’s military
These facts also are best understood by those who served and their families. Some continued to serve in uniform while many returned to civilian life, started families and began contributing to their communities.
Vietnam Veterans also mentored those that followed them in uniform and built the foundations of today’s military. Their experience and leadership led to successes in Panama, Desert Storm, Bosnia, and during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
As World War II and the Korean War reached their 50th anniversary, our nation commemorated our warriors’ service and sacrifice. Now we have the opportunity to do what should have been done 50 years ago: Welcome our Vietnam Veterans home with honor and thank them and their families for their service and sacrifice.
Across the country, thousands of local, state and federal organizations have become Commemorative Partners, committed to hosting events each year to thank and honor our Vietnam Veterans and their families.
The names etched in The Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remind us of our loved ones who gave their all and never came home. To the families, caregivers and survivors of the more than 58,000 service members whose names are memorialized in the black granite, we pledge to never forget the eternal sacrifice of your loved ones and what you have sacrificed for America.