On June 19, a Vietnam veterans welcome-home ceremony will be held at Cottrell Field on Fort Stewart. Many local communities also have designated the day as a time to honor all veterans who served during this war. This ceremony is a great event and one that everyone in the community should make plans to attend.
The only thing sad about the ceremony is that it took so long for it to take place.
The first U.S. soldiers to be killed in Vietnam were Maj. Dale Buis and Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand. They died in 1959 in a guerilla attack after being assigned to train South Vietnamese troops, according to defense.gov.
Before all of our servicemen were pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, there were a total of 58,220 U.S. military fatal casualties, according to archives.gov. To this day, there are reportedly 1,629 servicemen still missing in action who served in Vietnam, according to miafacts.org.
My tone in this guest editorial probably has a little hint of bitterness in it, and maybe it shouldn’t be there, but I guess I can’t help it. My father, John Riddle, was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for fighting in this war. I also have many friends who served. Some of these friends go to church with me, some are former colleagues, and many are simply people I know from this area. I guess because they were mistreated so badly when they came home from Vietnam, I feel inclined to hold those people who did them wrong accountable.
Recently, I was talking with a friend who served two tours in Vietnam. We were discussing how important Memorial Day is and how so many people don’t even know why we celebrate it. From this conversation, he told me of how he had been spit on while walking through an airport in his uniform during this time. He said many soldiers didn’t even want to wear their uniform when they flew because of the abuse they would have to endure in airports. My friend is now in his late 60s.
Just like the veterans from the Vietnam War have grown older, so have the protesters and antiwar folks. Many celebrities, politicians and normal everyday people who called these men names and protested them have come forward and apologized for their ignorant and unjustified attacks. And that is good because militarily, the Vietnam soldier was one of the most successful warriors to have ever fought for his country.
My father died in 1980. I regret that he didn’t get to see America finally admit that it was wrong in how it treated the Vietnam veteran and about the Vietnam War itself. During the war, historians agree, the U.S. won most of the major battles, according to politifact.com. And, according to history.com, of the Vietnam vets who served, 97 percent received honorable discharges.
These and many more facts prove what most of us already know about these special men and women who served in Vietnam: They are true heroes.
The ceremony on the 19th starts at 5:30 p.m. I encourage — no, I implore — everyone to attend this special event. If you have to work, ask for the day off or ask to leave early. Whether you are young, old, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, married, single, a former protestor or a supporter, please come out and show your support for the men and women who served during this time.
We as a nation let them down once before. Let’s not make that same mistake again.