Today is a unique military holiday, one that recognizes and honors a group of men and women whose experiences are unique themselves. Every veteran of every war deserves the acknowledgement of a grateful nation, but in 2012 this day was set aside to commemorate the 50th anniversary of major involvement in Vietnam and the select group who served there.
Vietnam was not a popular war and following the act of the “Greatest Generation” in World War II was daunting. American warriors in the second World War fought an evil far more tangible and avenged the deaths of our own at Pearl Harbor. But Vietnam was considered a different kind of war, one that would divide the nation along political lines.
It was a contentious time in our nation. Decades of fighting exhausted the country, and in many ways, this exhaustion was taken out on the men and women in uniform. Those who returned were cursed, mocked, and severely mistreated. The very people whose rights were being defended spewed hate at those who fought to protect those rights.
This is a generation of men and women who made sacrifices, both in deployment and when they came home. They experienced the difficulty of readjusting to civilian life. They began the wave of combat wounded to return home with severe injuries rather than die on the battlefield. But that return was filled with difficulty and stigma perpetuated by the country they fought for and thousands more died to protect.
Every veteran from every war deserves the acknowledgement of a grateful nation, but this generation of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen deserve special recognition. They paved the way for a new generation to address combat injuries, both physical and mental. They opened the eyes of the public to mistreatment of veterans. They overcame the horrors of war and the hardship of home to reintegrate into society and continue serving their country.
On this day, we say a special ‘thank you’ to the men and women who served in the Vietnam War for their courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country.