When United States service members returned home from the Vietnam War, many did not receive a hero’s welcome – and few were thanked for the time spent in the military during the conflict.
A group of military veterans in Jay is working to rectify the issue by honoring those who served their country during the 20-year span of the war.
Robert Lawson, a Vietnam War veteran and member of American Legion Post 195 in Jay, is one of the local sponsors of a United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration ceremony set to take place at 1 p.m., Saturday, March 25, at the Jay Community Center, 429 South Ninth, Jay.
“It doesn’t matter where in the world you served. If you were in anytime during that period, you are officially a Vietnam veteran," Lawson said. “That would have included about 9 million people.
"There are an estimated 7.2 million still living today, and that’s whom we are reaching out for with events like this one. I hope each of them will receive a pin.”
Each eligible Vietnam War veteran who attends the ceremony will receive a lapel pin, handshake and a thank you for their service “from a grateful nation.”
Family members of the veterans are also invited to attend the event.
“Vietnam veterans didn’t say much about their service to friends and family,” Lawson said. “This conflict was so unlike any other conflict that America ever had to deal with.
"There was no front line in this war. Many veterans had difficulties when they returned home, and had very little help dealing and coping with issues. Some just couldn’t talk about their experiences publicly for several years after returning to the United States, and some were forgotten about.”
Vietnam Veterans Day
The Delaware County event closely coincides with Vietnam Veterans Day, which is celebrated annually on March 29.
The commemoration was created for the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War to recognize veterans who served from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975 - regardless of the location.
The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act authorized a program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War to highlight and honor the services of the United States Armed Forces.
The commemoration began with an inaugural event at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., on Memorial Day in 2008, and will conclude on Veterans Day in 2025, according to a presidential proclamation.
United States involvement in Vietnam started slowly with an initial deployment of advisors in the 1950s, with an expanded deployment of full combat units in July 1965.
The last U.S. personnel were evacuated from Vietnam on April 30, 1975.
The local event is made possible in part by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration and hosted by members of the American Legion Post 195 in Jay.
“It’s a very satisfying thing, Lawson said. "People are telling us that this is a great thing being done for our veterans.”
More information about the national event, persons interested may visit www.vietnamwar50th.com.
For more information about the Delaware County event, persons interested may contact Lawson at 918-253-6044.