We were pleased to see President Trump proclaim March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day. This is the first time the nation has designated a day to honor those who served and sacrificed in Vietnam. It was a long time coming, but March 29 now solidifies our national observance.
This past weekend, my colleagues with the United War Veterans Council held their Vietnam Veterans Day commemoration at the NYC Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which President Trump and I help build when we co-chaired the Memorial Commission in the 80’s. This annual commemoration is a solemn and emotional affair, especially with the reading of the names for those 1,741 New Yorkers we lost in the Vietnam War. The service has brought a new meaning in recent years, as we are also reading the names of those we lost in Iraq, Afghanistan and other post-9/11 operations.
As we commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day, I am also reminded of the “Welcome Home” parade we organized in New York. After ten years of a war that officially ended in 1975, Americans wanted to forget Vietnam. Unfortunately, there continued to be much confusion between the war and the warrior, to put it mildly. Vietnam Vets simply were not properly recognized for their service.
In fact, quite the opposite was true. But, May 1985 changed all that. The parade in New York City turned out to be the largest ticker tape parade in the history of the city. It was cathartic, an extraordinary act of healing. The million who cheered realized they needed the parade as much as the 25,000 Vietnam vets who marched. That sentiment spread across the country and today, we greet our servicemen and women with “thank you for your service,” regardless of how we feel about a particular war.