An Overdue Welcome Home for Vietnam Veterans

The Missing Man Table serves as a reminder to remember those still believed to be missing or held captive.

Welcome home.

These words express a sincere acceptance and appreciation to those who have been missed.

They can also take the form of a strong handshake, a solid pat on the shoulder, a long hug, or a noticeable nod of the head.  

Very few Vietnam veterans heard these words or experienced these actions when they came home.

“I landed at Sea-Tac on my way home to Tacoma,” recalled Roger King, “but there was no welcome.”

He served with the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment from 1969 to 1970.  About his service, all he said is that he saw combat and that he served honorably.

The Silver Star pin on the left lapel of his blue coat silently spoke of his heroism.

But no one welcomed him home.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day is celebrated on March 29th.  It is a time to honor the courage and welcome back those who served during the Vietnam War.

 

The Making of the Day

As the long and politically divisive war came to an end in 1974, President Richard Nixon issued declaration honoring Vietnam veterans.

He chose March 29th because it marked the day a year earlier on which the last remaining American service members departed Vietnam.

From that time forward, states and territories informally marked the day.

“Vietnam Veterans Day was a good start toward recognition of those who served then,” said Bill Peterson, who served from 1966 to 1968 as a tail gunner on a B-52.

“I remember how poorly many vets were treated when they returned.”

This country’s involvement began on November 1, 1955 and ended on May 15, 1975.  During those two decades, approximately 2.7 million service members served in Vietnam.

The wounded numbered over 304,000; the dead numbered over 58,000.

The Vietnam War was very controversial; the nation was as much at war with itself as its soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen were in Vietnam.

The vast majority of returning veterans came home to the indifference of no parades or welcome celebrations, or to the screaming hostilities of protestors who in many instances spat on or assaulted them.

“There was a lot of anger for not getting a welcome home,” said Mike Batnick, a veteran who served on the flight deck of the USS Midway in the Tonkin Gulf from 1961 to 1962.

“But there has been a change, there is less anger.”

 

Army and Vietnam veteran Roger King has no regrets about his service.

 

A Change in Attitude

On March 29, 2012 President Barack Obama proclaimed the day as Vietnam Veterans Day.

In his proclamation are the words …

“Yet, in one of the war’s most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected – to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example.”

Noble in intent, the proclamation only called for a one-time observance of Vietnam veterans.

March 29, 2019 marks the second anniversary of President Donald Trump’s signing of the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.

Presented by Senators Pat Toomey, R-PA, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind, the act honors Vietnam veterans with a day on the anniversary of the withdrawal of the last military units from Vietnam.

The act calls for all American flags to be flown on March 29th in honor of those who served.

“Wars are hard to understand by both those who fought and by those who stayed home,” concluded King, “but we did our best for each other and our country.”

Welcome home.

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