In 2017, Congress passed a law to permanently designate March 29 as Vietnam War Veterans Day. That law was signed by the President.
The law, known as the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 encourages the display of the United States Flag on March 29 in honor of our Vietnam War Veterans. Here are a few reasons why we should fly our flags on March 29:
Fifty years ago, the United States military and its allies were responding to the advances of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. This is known as the Tet Offensive which lasted 30 days. This was a campaign of surprise attacks against military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam. There were two additional offensives by the North Vietnamese that year. 1968 proved to be the bloodiest year of the Vietnam era. There were more war casualties that year than in any other.
The era of the Vietnam War was a tumultuous period. The war lasted 20 years and spanned three decades. It has been established that the start of the Vietnam War was November 1, 1955 and the official end was April 30, 1975. (Some believe the end to be May 15, 1975.)
Almost 3 million United States Military personnel served in Vietnam. Millions more served in other locations during that 20-year span.
More than 58,000 died in Vietnam.
More than 700 Oregonians were among the Vietnam killed in action.
Four Oregon families lost two sons in Vietnam. A total of 39 families nationwide experienced such a loss.
There were military personnel missing in action in Southeast Asia. Roughly 1,600 Americans are still unaccounted for.
There were prisoners of war.
Most of the Vietnam warriors who came back to the United States were never welcomed home. Many of our uniformed veterans were spit upon, ridiculed and attacked for honoring the call of their nation.
Today, there are Vietnam War veterans suffering from maladies due to exposures to infecting sources such as Agent Orange. Many who were awarded a Purple Heart are experiencing complications attributed to their battle wounds.
In addition to flying our flags on March 29 we, as Oregonians, should honor our Vietnam War Veterans with a mandate of support for a Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds.
Such a memorial would honor those who served during the Vietnam Era regardless of their location of service. It would demonstrably honor all who served in Vietnam. Furthermore, this memorial would remember those who gave their life, forfeiting their American Dream so that we could live ours.
Our Vietnam War Veterans have endured a great deal of controversy, heartache and physical discomfort for varying reasons. A memorial to honor their service on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds will be our way of saying “welcome home,” albeit almost 50 years late.
It is appropriate that a Vietnam War Memorial be placed on the grounds of the Oregon State Capitol. This will demonstrate our state’s commitment and gratitude to our Vietnam veterans. This memorial will enable our state residents to better understand the struggles of our Vietnam War Veterans.
Let us honor and memorialize our Vietnam War Veterans for generations to come.
Steve Bates is a life member of the Associates of the Vietnam Veterans of America. He serves as chair of the committee on memorials and remembrance and is president of the Vietnam War Memorial Fund.