Vietnam veteran ceremony offered a tribute to those often forgotten

Aug 22, 2014

Fifty years ago, millions of men and women packed up their lives, left their families behind and served in the Vietnam War.

Despite many controversies during the war and after, those who served displayed great courage and honor to the United States — and it’s about time those veterans receive some honor in return. This is why the declaration of Aug. 10 as the Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day was a big deal.

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory recently issued a proclamation officially declaring the day as Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day because that same day in 1964 was the day the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed — giving the President Lyndon B. Johnson the authorization to use conventional military force in Southeast Asia.

The day Aug. 10 now serves as a reminder of the thousands of people who gave their service and/or the ultimate sacrifice for our nation, and during a time when everything felt unfair and unsure.

It is particularly meaningful that Haywood County, and hopefully other counties, offered a Vietnam veterans ceremony for the local veterans on Aug. 10 because —unlike our troops today— Vietnam veterans were not revered when they came home. They were considered “about as low as you could get,” as described by Vietnam veteran Don Grasty of Maggie Valley.

And today, at a time when our current veterans are shown respect and appreciation, it’s important that we share some of that appreciation with the men and women who served in Vietnam— even if it’s just for one day.

Many people described the Vietnam War as hostile because of the tactful enemy, the challenging terrain and wildlife and the ongoing and shifting political conflicts — not to mention the psychological trauma that came along with seeing fellow serviceman killed or disfigured by snipers, mines or booby traps.

And after such an experience, our soldiers deserved to come home to open arms but due to confusion and controversy among the nation, they came home to bitterness, protestors and rejection. But it’s still not too late to show them compassion and gratitude.

So when several Vietnam veterans walked into the Haywood County Courthouse on Aug. 10 and received praise and recognition for their sacrifice, it could have been a new feeling for them.

We should all take the time to make our veterans feel appreciated, particularly those from Vietnam who may not have experienced that before. We can all make an extra effort to thank them for their service — we can introduce ourselves, shake their hand and even pay for dinner once in a while. That’s not really asking too much from the community is it?

So the next time Aug. 10 rolls around, we should all make a conscious effort to remember the Vietnam veterans and pay tribute to them somehow. Now is their time to be thanked for their service.