President Launches Commemoration and Lauds Vietnam Vets at The Wall on Memorial Day

President Barack Obama delivered the keynote remarks at the Memorial Day Observance at The Wall on May 28, 2012. (Photo by Jim Greenhill)
President Barack Obama delivered the keynote remarks at the Memorial Day Observance at The Wall on May 28, 2012. (Photo by Jim Greenhill)
This year’s Memorial Day observance at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was highlighted by President Barack Obama’s appearance to officially declare the beginning of the national commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, which will run through Nov. 11, 2025. Participants in the ceremony included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, and actor Tom Selleck, who served as master of ceremonies.

Obama laid a wreath at The Wall with Rose Mary Sabo-Brown, the widow of Army Spc. Leslie Sabo, who received the Medal of Honor posthumously in May.

The commemoration will last 13 years, roughly the length of the war, though the war’s exact dates have been disputed. The United States first sent advisers to Vietnam in 1959, and combat troops were sent in 1964, following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The year 1962 was chosen for the purpose of the commemoration because that’s when the Pentagon first authorized a Vietnam Service Ribbon for troops sent to Southeast Asia, The Boston Globe reported. It was also the year that President John Kennedy increased military advisers from a few hundred to several thousand.

The decade-long commemoration is under the direction of retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude "Mick" Kicklighter, a Vietnam War veteran who emphasizes that the effort will be grassroots in nature. Kicklighter said Memorial Day was to be the first day of a nationwide drive to recruit 7,500 community partners to participate in the commemoration by 2015. See Vietnam magazine’s interview with General Kicklighter

This was the second time a president has attended the Memorial Day service at The Wall. “It’s here we feel the depth of your sacrifice,” Obama said. “You did your job. You served with honor. You made us proud and you earned your place among the greatest generations. Welcome Home.”

For more on the commemoration, visit


2 Responses

  1. Gary Rieth

    After reading the press release printed in VN magazine, I was truly outraged by your lack of coverage of the event. I, like many hundreds of VN vets and their families went to D.C. to pay our respects at The Wall and to reflect. To our amazement we were denied entry by hundreds of uniformed police, park police, secret service agents, etc. Only those people possessing an invitation were allowed down to The Wall. The rest of us would not be allowed in until 2:30-3:00PM That was news to to all of us who went there as we normally have done. There was no fore warning that The Wall would be closed off because of the pending Presidential visit. I was there in ’82 when Reagan dedicated The Wall and thousands of us were not denied the right of entry and stood there to listen to his speech. Obama went there for “face time” in the news. It was strictly politics at its ugliest. The screwing of VN vets continues. Next time, print the whole story and not just someone’s news release for political purposes.
    Gary Rieth
    HHT 1st Sqdn, 11th Armd Cav Regt.

  2. Larry C

    The current administration and the “drive-by” media do not give a damn about any vet. All that matters is promoting the “compaigner-in-chief.”


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