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Vietnam War Commemoration – 50th Anniversary - Honoring the Forgotten and Ignored

Thursday, October 10, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kathy Walters, CMP, CCEP, Purdue University
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The Vietnam War was a highly controversial issue for many years in the United States.  When the war was taking place, there were many protests and anti-war rallies.  Thus, when the soldiers started to return from the war, they were not given any ticker-tape parades or huge welcoming ceremonies like had been done for the earlier war veterans.  This led to a large group of forgotten and ignored veterans who felt they had laid down their lives for nothing.

In 2008, the National Defense Authorization Act was authorized and within that the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Vietnam War was put into place.  This act created The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration.

In late 2017, a group of Purdue staff members decided to participate in the Commemoration Program.  The overarching main goal for this program is to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families for their service to our country.  As a daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, I know firsthand of the “lack of welcome” and outright shunning of these brave soldiers when they originally returned to the US after serving overseas.   These Welcoming ceremonies have been long overdue.

To become an officially-recognized partner in this program, Purdue had to execute at least 2 Commemorative events each year for a 3-year span.  In our first year as a partner (2018), Purdue put on the following events of which I was honored to be one of the planners:  200+ person luncheon for all area Vietnam Veterans including Purdue Alumni and staff, a football tailgate honoring the Veterans, and a Military Appreciation Football game which welcomed the Vietnam Veterans on field during halftime.  We also had special commemorative ceremonies throughout the year on Flag Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day which had special emphasis on the Vietnam Veterans.

We are currently in our second year of commemoration and have once again done a few special welcoming activities for our local Vietnam War Veterans.  We had another Military Appreciation Football game that included a special tailgate for the veterans.  This year Purdue partnered with Vettix.org to distribute free football game tickets to veterans. I have enclosed a picture of me with my father, Joe Walters, a proud Air Force Vietnam Veteran!

Since the creation of this program, there has been over 17,000 events across the United States.  There are many programs at colleges and universities, mostly as part of ROTC or Military Department programs. 

Participation in this program as a planner and a participant was very enlightening and gratifying at the same time.  Former President Obama summed it up very well in his 2012 inauguration speech:

“You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. And that's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again.”