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Vietnam Veterans Days Spread Across America

Parades, ceremonies and somber observances in late March and early April brought recognition and healing to Vietnam veterans across the country as communities marked Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day (also called Vietnam War Remembrance Day or Vietnam Veterans Day) and two big milestones of the war: the 50th anniversary of the start of U.S. involvement, and the 40th anniversary of America’s pullout from Vietnam.

In Yonkers, N.Y., on April 3 veterans and city officials commemorated the war’s 40th anniversary by placing a wreath at the war memorial on South Broadway that lists the 58 Yonkers natives killed in the war. In San Jose, Calif., officials and veterans gathered on March 30 to unveil the Sons of San Jose monument, a project begun by Vietnam vet Michael Salas to remember the 142 men who gave their lives in Vietnam. In Minneapolis, at the Minnesota Twins game on April 3, the American flag was raised by Larry Shellito, one of more than 30 Vietnam vets who will be given that honor this season, in a partnership effort by the Twins and the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs to mark the 50th anniversary.

This year saw the first official observance of Welcome Home or Vietnam Veterans Day in New Hampshire,Washington and Ohio, three of about 35 states whose legislatures have enacted it. Richard McIntire, 69, wore his Vietnam military ribbons in public for the first time at a ceremony at the Concord, N.H., National Guard hangar at Concord airport, where more than 1,000 people had gathered. “This will start a process for me to shed some pain, maybe get rid of it,”said McIntire of Contoocock, according to the Concord Monitor.

In Olympia, Wash., the Yakama Warriors Association, a Native American veterans group with about 190 members who lobbied the state legislature to approve Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day last year, presented the colors on March 29 at the State Capitol, the day before the new observance. The group held a powwow drum ceremony, and religious leaders formed a circle of life. Gil Calac of the Yakama Warriors Association said the day would help veterans “put away our guilt, the shame, the grief, the despair” and heal psychological wounds. “The scars will be there forever,” said Calac, who took his Bronze Star Medal out of the box for the first time and wore it at the ceremony.

At the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, 3,417 names of fallen Vietnam soldiers from Texas were read aloud on March 24 during the groundbreaking events for the Texas Capitol Vietnam Veterans Monument and as part of the monument’s 3417 Project.Among the honored guests reading names were Joe Galloway, co-author of the best-selling book We Were Soldiers Once…and Young, and Lyndon Johnson’s two daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson. The latter made an emotional statement when she reached the podium: “Before I have the privilege of reading these names, I want to take the blessing to all of you Vietnam vets and to your families: My father loved you….Generations of Johnsons and Americans across our fruited plain owe you everything and we know it.”

“Ms. Luci, I would like to say you have probably healed a whole generation of veterans with that simple statement,” said U.S. Army veteran Thomas Crabtree, who took the podium following her.

During the groundbreaking ceremony the next day, Galloway gave the keynote address, and replica dog tags for each of the fallen soldiers were dedicated. For each Texan killed, the 3417 Project created two dog tags embossed with the name, branch of service, rank, date of loss and hometown. One set of 3,417 tags is on display at the Texas Vietnam Heroes Exhibit at the LBJ Library through July, when the exhibit will begin a tour of Texas. The second set, dedicated at the groundbreaking, was placed in an ammunition carrier, along with medals the men would have earned and the American and Texas flags. The tags were then taken about 40 miles to Bastrop, where the monument is being built.

A short film of the ceremony, including Luci Baines Johnson’s statement to Vietnam veterans, can be viewed online at

Laotian Veterans of ‘Secret War’ Gather for Reunion

As part of the nation’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War, veterans of Laos’ Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU), who helped U.S. forces in the early years of the war, gathered on March 30 in New Britain, Conn., along with U.S. veterans and political guests, including Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, for a daylong reunion. More than 50 years after that fight began, much of their story is still untold.

Organized and funded in 1960 by the CIA, the SGU conducted covert operations along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, where U.S. forces were forbidden by Congress to enter. About 300,000 Laotian and ethnic Hmong men joined the SGU, some 35,000 of whom died during the war, according to a report in The Hartford Courant. General Joseph Potter of the U.S. National Defense Corps told the gathering, “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., which holds the names of more than 58,000 U.S. veterans killed in the war, would be twice as long were it not for the SGU and other allies who fought with them.”

In 1973, when the U.S. withdrew its combat troops from Vietnam, the SGU soldiers were immediately targeted by the Communist regime; those who weren’t imprisoned, tortured or killed found refuge in Thailand. Thousands emigrated to the U.S. and became citizens but received little, if any, credit for their service and sacrifice, said former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, a Vietnam veteran and one-time CIA officer. Officials at the SGU National Headquarters in Windsor, Conn., say they will petition Congress for formal recognition of their service and for U.S. veterans benefits.

NewDay USA Makes $1M Contribution at The Wall

Employees and executives from NewDay USA and its foundation gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington on April 13 to participate in two events for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF): washing The Wall and delivering a $1 million contribution toward building the Education Center at The Wall.

NewDay USA was the exclusive sponsor of The Wall’s first washing following the winter months. “With the first washing of the season, we remove the dirt and grime to better reveal not only the names on The Wall, but also our own reflection,” said Jan C. Scruggs, VVMF founder and president. “It is a deeply personal event.”

After the scrubbing, Rob Posner, co-chairman of the NewDay USA Foundation, presented a $1 million ceremonial check to Scruggs for the Education Center at the Wall.“We wanted to participate in a meaningful way,” said Posner,“and our support for the Education Center helps to ensure that the faces and stories of fallen heroes are never forgotten.”

NewDay USA is one of the nation’s leading mortgage companies serving veterans, and its foundation provides grants and charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations that support veterans, active duty service members and military families.


Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Vietnam. To subscribe, click here.