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Counting the Years

Last Memorial Day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, President Barack Obama launched the Department of Defense program to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. On the stage that day were Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former senator and Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel, both of whom joined the president in honoring the sacrifices of the millions of Americans who served in Vietnam—those whose names are on The Wall that stood behind them and those who survived the war. Recently, Senator Hagel was tapped by Secretary Panetta to serve as chair of the 50th anniversary commemoration’s advisory committee.

Vietnam magazine, which is marking its 25th year of publication, and its parent company, World History Group, are honored to be one of the first United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration partners—and the very first media partner. In that role, Vietnam looks forward to working with General Claude Kicklighter, who currently heads the 50th commemoration, and his staff, during the 13-year-long anniversary period. Since the founding of Vietnam 25 years ago by Army Colonel Harry Summers Jr.—whom General Kicklighter knew well and worked alongside in Saigon in 1975 during the final tumultuous days of the war—we have always sought to present the many truths of the war. Among those truths is the fact that those who served in that troubled and unpopular war did so with honor and at great sacrifice. Vietnam veterans are the equal of any who have fought for their country and are deserving of this nation’s recognition and appreciation. Alas, for many who served in Vietnam, this recognition comes too late, but a major thrust of the effort is aimed at reaching and recognizing the family members of all Vietnam veterans, whether their loved ones perished in the war or since, or are among the millions of vets living in virtually every community in the country. The commemoration has therefore been designed to be a grassroots effort involving thousands of communities, institutions and organizations and engaging them in meaningful activities that recognize and honor Vietnam vets and the sacrifices of all who serve our country. In the months and years ahead, Vietnam will join with General Kicklighter and his team to reach out and enlist the support of a grateful nation.

And we mark another anniversary in this issue. It has been 45 years since a critical turning point in the war, the 1968 Tet Offensive, and contributor Rod Paschall reminds us that a military catastrophe in Saigon was averted largely thanks to the quick reaction teams of military police augmented by an assortment of personnel thrown together from Brig. Gen. Albin Irzyk’s U.S. Army’s Headquarters Area Command. And, in this issue’s portfolio, soldiers, journalists and photographers select the single image that, in their minds’ eye, best represents “Tet” to them.