EDITORIAL: Appropriate time for reflection
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EDITORIAL: Appropriate time for reflection

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So many are serving with honor during the emergency sparked by the threat the COVID-19 coronavirus. Many “ordinary” people are doing extraordinary things to help others. And those in official capacities are working overtime to keep all safe. We say thanks to all.

On Sunday, Gov. Henry McMaster, who has been out front in the battle against the coronavirus, urged South Carolinians to honor those who in another time did extraordinary things for their country in the face great adversity. The governor declared March 29 Vietnam War Veterans Day in South Carolina, again recognizing the date as designated by the Vietnam Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. The date remembers and honors all having fought and sacrificed in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975.

McMaster’s was a statement of the times: “The United States of America is the greatest country in the world because of the strength and sacrifice of men and women like those that we honor on Vietnam War Veterans Day. These men and women are the best of us – they answered the call to serve when it was most difficult, and they served us well. These challenging times provide opportunity for reflection, and I ask that you take a moment to reflect on, and appreciate, the honorable service of our Vietnam War Veterans.”

In separate series, The Times and Democrat has recognized veterans, many of them from the Vietnam era.

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“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. The 2019 series “Stories of Honor” included Vietnam veterans.

Both series opened eyes among journalists and readers about what service to country can mean – and the cost of war.

The statistics from Vietnam alone 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.

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• 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.

• 906 South Carolinians were killed in the war.

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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.

In 2020, The Times and Democrat will continue the “Stories of Honor” series. While the stories of those having served the country are not limited to Vietnam veterans, the fact remains that these are among the oldest of our combat veterans. Their stories need to be told.

The Stories of Honor program is accepting nominations of local veterans and active-duty military personnel from all branches of the armed forces who live in Orangeburg, Bamberg or Calhoun counties.

Select stories will be featured weekly in The T&D and at TheTandD.com beginning April 24. The series will be followed up with a commemorative special section and a special event honoring all featured veterans on the campus of South Carolina State University.

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Nominations can be submitted online at thetandd.com/forms/promo/storiesofhonor or by mail to: T&D Stories of Honor, P.O. Drawer 1766, Orangeburg, SC 29116. Please include your name, email address, daytime phone number, the nominee’s name and branch of service. Also, please share the nominee’s story in at least 200 words.

South Carolina State University is the presenting sponsor for “Stories of Honor.” Title sponsors are Orangeburg County and Fogle’s Piggly Wiggly. Supporting sponsors are Planet Fitness and the Bill Connor Law Firm.

Honors, tributes and thank yous are too late for many Vietnam veterans, but the stories of those who served there and elsewhere will stand as a tribute again this year and beyond.

Revisit The Times and Democrat’s “Vietnam: They Served With Honor” and “Stories of Honor” series at TheTandD.com.

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