“Vietnam: They Served With Honor,” a 25-part Times and Democrat series in 2015, featured memorable stories of T&D Region veterans of the war a half-century ago in Southeast Asia.
The series opened eyes among T&D journalists and readers about the war. Many veterans came forward wanting to tell their stories. Some told them. Some changed their minds. Others waited to make contact. The series left some stories untold.
Yet recognizing all who served remains important. Vietnam veterans were unlike those from wars before and after in that many Americans believed the conflict in which they served was unnecessary and unjust. The veterans were ridiculed during a turbulent era – something that never should happen to anyone serving our nation in the armed forces. Decisions about when and where to fight were not then and are not now made by the men and women in uniform doing their duty.
The statistics from Vietnam are sobering. According to the National Vietnam Veterans Association:
- Nine million military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam era (Aug. 5, 1964-May 7, 1975), with more than 2.5 million involved in the war.
- More than 8.5 million GIs were on active duty during the war (Aug 5, 1964-March 28, 1973).
- A total of 58,202 Americans died in the Vietnam War. The average age of those killed was 23.
- Another 303,704 were wounded in the war. More than 23,000 were severely disabled.
- Missing in action: 2,338. As of Jan. 15, 2004, there were 1,875 Americans still unaccounted for from Vietnam.
Fifty years after the beginning of major U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam, Orangeburg paid special tribute to Vietnam veterans in 2015. The Veterans Day service at Edisto Memorial Gardens honored those who served in the Southeast Asia war.
Today, South Carolina as a whole is offering a special tribute to Vietnam veterans.
Gov. Henry McMaster will be joined by veterans and their friends and families for a special event recognizing the first South Carolina Vietnam War Veterans’ Day at the South Carolina Statehouse. The day is to become an annual observance.
The governor is issuing a statewide proclamation designating the day to coincide with National Vietnam War Veterans’ Day, which was established by President Donald Trump when he signed the Vietnam War Recognition Act of 2017.
“We welcome every South Carolinian who is able to be with us this Thursday to come to our beautiful Statehouse to honor the men and women who answered the call to serve in Vietnam,” McMaster said. “Those who fought came home to a divided nation, but the one thing that we should all agree on is that their commitment to honor and duty should be celebrated now and for generations to come.”
The 11 a.m. event is open to the public and will feature a processional of motorcycles honoring those having served and a performance of the National Anthem by native South Carolinian and current American Idol contestant MaCayla Madison.
Honors, tributes and thank yous are too late for many Vietnam veterans. Of the 2,709,918 Americans who served in Vietnam, less than 850,000 are estimated to be alive today. Yet recognizing the service of those living and those deceased is no less relevant.
Today, on S.C. Vietnam War Veterans’ Day, we join in offering a special salute to Vietnam veterans.
Revisit The Times and Democrat’s “Vietnam: They Served With Honor” series with this editorial today at TheTandD.com, where you also will find a copy of the invitation to all Vietnam veterans to join the ceremony in Columbia.