It lasted 20 years, November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975, and is being commemorated for 13 years. That’s a long commemoration. Can you guess what “it” is? The National 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration. The Secretary of Defense authorized it. And its primary objective is to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice, with distinct, dignified recognition.
For those too young to know, the Vietnam War was a long, costly, and divisive conflict between the communist government of North Vietnam and South Vietnam with its principal ally, the United States. Its controversy often pitted neighbor against neighbor, so strong were the sentiments. Paired with an ongoing Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, it was a stressful and difficult time in American history, especially for US service members and veterans who took the brunt of public anger.
The Vietnam War 50th commemoration was designed as a healing, with events such as the long overdue “welcome home” ceremonies which have been held nationwide, including here in Thurston County and a reading of names. One such venue is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (wall)l at the State Capitol Campus. It includes the names of the 1,124 Washington state residents who died or are missing-in-action. It also features an inscription:
To all my brothers and sisters who made it back, but never made it home. In memory of those who have died from physical and emotional wounds received while serving in the Vietnam War.
We honor and recognize their pain and suffering, but above all we respect the courage of these Washington State residents. When our country called, you were there. We have not forgotten; you are not alone. You Now Rest in Glory
Memorial Day May 26, 1997
The welcome-home event includes the pinning of veterans. The pin awarded features an eagle and other symbols on the front. On the back is a message, “A grateful nation thanks and honors you.” It is presented to any living US Vietnam era veteran.
Beginning in 2015, the Sacajawea Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), has held a welcome home ceremony on Veterans Day at the wall and by the reading of names, as etched; to remember both those still among us and those who died.
Lieutenant Colonel James A. Collins, Washington Army National Guard, was the 2023 keynote speaker, telling the story of the Vietnam era and the plight of US service men and women. Serving at the event: a bagpiper, Beverly York, and a colonial color guard of the George Rogers Clark Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution with Sacajawea Chapter’s Jeanne Pittenger.
This year, eight Vietnam era veterans were pinned as were three blue star family members who received a blue star pin (immediate family members of those who serve during a time of conflict) to an audience of about 40.
The DAR and other commemorative partners, such as Quilts of Valor, pin veterans at both public and private events year-round, where one or two meet in a café, up to hundreds in auditoriums. The Sacajawea Chapter DAR has pinned upwards to 400 Vietnam era veterans.
As a part of the official US commemoration, we as a country have two more years to honor Vietnam Veterans. Organizer Franida Maudsley plans to make the last two years count with events honoring all Vietnam-era veterans, living and dead, stating for this article, “Please! We need your participation to help thank and honor these people who fought for our values. And they did it during a rough time. They did it at a time when people in our nation made the mistake of not separating the war from the warrior!”
November 11, 2024 and 2025. All are invited. Veterans previously pinned are also encouraged to attend and will receive a personalized certificate to be completed on site.
Please mark your calendar for 12:30 PM at the wall on Veterans Day, November 11th, 2024 and 2025, on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, Washington. The wall is located on the west campus’ lawn, east of the Insurance Building. Also, check the JOLT calendar next fall or to be added to a list for these two events, email Shirley@thejoltnews.com and mention “Welcome Home Vietnam Vets.”
Shirley Stirling, of Lacey, writes about good things people in Thurston County are doing. If you’d like to nominate someone to be profiled, contact her at shirley@theJOLTnews.com or comment below.
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