“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.
On March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed into law The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, designating every March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Honors, tributes and thank yous are too late for many Vietnam veterans. Of the 2,709,918 Americans who served in Vietnam, less than a million are alive today. Yet recognizing the service of those living and those deceased is no less relevant.
David Franklin of Orangeburg was a 20-year-old squad leader in Vietnam in 1969. He was among those profiled in our 2015 series. He writes in 2019:
“This year marks 50 years for Vietnam for me personally. On Jan. 13, 1969, I was in Vietnam. Nothing has changed. The repercussions of that war are still with me. I'm still here but with the same medical issues. I hope that we have not lost any of the veterans that you did articles on. I hope they are still here and still among us. Rest in peace to all deceased Vietnam veterans – and all veterans that sacrificed their lives for their country. I am now 70 years old, and I pray that God continues to hold our hands through all our medical Issues and repercussions from the Vietnam War. God bless us all, and let’s not forget.”
Revisit The Times and Democrat’s “Vietnam: They Served With Honor” series with this editorial today at TheTandD.com.