STAUNTON, Va. –
More than 100 Vietnam veterans filed onto the drill floor of the Thomas D. Howie Memorial Readiness Center March 30, 2017, for a Vietnam Veterans Commemoration Ceremony. The event, hosted by Congressman Bob Goodlatte in Staunton, Virginia, included several helping hands from the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Soldiers of the unit not only provided a color guard and other support to the ceremony, but several Soldiers were on hand to welcome and usher in the Vietnam veterans to their readiness center and to personally thank them for their service.
“I’m honored to play a small part in recognizing our Vietnam veterans in today’s ceremony,” said Col. Scott Smith, commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, during his remarks at the event. “What inspired myself and many others who joined about the time I did, was the men that served from your generation, the Vietnam veterans, men like yourself and your brothers in arms. It was you we looked up to, it was you and your example that made us proud and want to serve in uniform.”
The ceremony aimed to personally and publicly recognize each local Vietnam veteran in attendance and to provide them and their family members an official welcome home that many returning veterans did not receive.
“Tragically, when many of your returned home, you were greeted with a cold and at times hostile reception,” explained Goodlatte. “Returning Soldiers were encouraged to travel home in civilian clothes rather than wearing their military uniform due to the hostile and volatile environment. […] While any recognition now is insufficient for the recognition you should have received when you arrived back to the United States, I believe it’s important to honor, thank and celebrate each and everyone of you for your service to our nation.”
Following the congressman’s remarks, the Vietnam veterans were called, by name, to the front of the room where cadets from Fishburne Military School pinned each veteran with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. The pins, presented through a partnership with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, depict an eagle, to represent the courage, honor and dedicated service of each veteran, and a laurel wreath, to represent victory, integrity and strength. On the back, the pin reads, “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”
According to Goodlatte, every man and woman who served in the Vietnam Era, regardless of location of service, from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975 is eligible to receive one Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin.
“Many of your were young adults when you were first called to serve your nation. You selflessly left your family and friends to travel to a foreign land, some leaving the United States and even your communities for the first time,” Goodlatte said. “You served our nation honorably and deserve to be treated with praise and respect upon your return to the United States.”
In addition to the pin, Goodlatte also presented each of the veterans with a certificate, a handshake and a personal thank you.
“Despite the hardships, Vietnam veterans have emerged as a resilient group, composed of some of the greatest community and civic leaders,” Goodlatte said.
To close the ceremony, Virginia Delegate Dickie Bell, a Vietnam veteran who was recognized at the ceremony, led the assembled in a moment of silence.
“I’m one of your, and I remember what it was like,” Bell said. “I can tell you that I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room full of more greatness, full of more heroes.”
On March 29, 1973, the last combat troops withdrew from Vietnam and today, National Vietnam Veterans Day is recognized on March 29th of each year as a day to remember and honor those who fought in the Vietnam War.
“On behalf of the men and women who I represent, from the Stonewall Brigade, we sincerely thank you for your example and your selfless service,” Smith said. “It’s fitting that we who serve today are among the many who recognize your service to this nation and thank you and your families for your many sacrifices.”