AUSA Helps Honor Vietnam Veterans

AUSA Helps Honor Vietnam Veterans

Vietnam veteran
Photo by: U.S. Army/Sgt. John Stephens

Half a century after U.S. combat troops withdrew from Vietnam, the Association of the U.S. Army will participate in a commemoration in Washington, D.C., honoring those who served and their families.

“Welcome Home! A Nation Honors our Vietnam Veterans and their Families” will take place May 11–13 on the National Mall. Events include a plaza with historical exhibits, a 2-mile pilgrimage of remembrance from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a multimedia celebration.

AUSA will attend and participate in the commemoration. In addition to an AUSA tent, there will be an AUSA membership booth, and several local AUSA chapters will participate. The AUSA tent will be located at one of the JFK hockey fields in the nation’s capital.

Soldiers who served in Vietnam want to make their sacrifices known, retired Lt. Col. Lawrence Clements told the Army. “It’s important, because I think there are still people that don’t think about Vietnam and the sacrifices made,” said Clements, who served two tours in Vietnam. “It’s important for people to know.”

After deploying advisers in the early 1950s, the U.S. began sending combat troops in July 1965. The last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam on March 29, 1973, according to an Army webpage. During the war, approximately 153,303 American service members were wounded, and approximately 58,220 Americans died, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today, there are about 6.1 million living Vietnam War-era veterans.

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, which was authorized by Congress and launched in 2012, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The commemoration will continue through Veterans Day 2025.

For soldiers who served in Vietnam, the danger of a sudden Viet Cong ambush was always present. “The Viet Cong used a lot of hit-and-run tactics,” Vietnam Army veteran Tom Reilly said during an interview with the Witness to War Foundation. “That’s what they would do: lightning-fast ambushes. They’d show up, spray gunfire every place and disappear.”

Veterans like Dennis Stack, a former soldier who served as a crew chief on a Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, still carry the war with them. “I had a hard time adjusting … and I still do. …I can't be around a lot of people. … I prefer to work alone and avoid confrontation,” Dennis said in an Army news release. “Not a day goes by that you don’t think of the war, think of how many times you were barely missed, or think of those who didn’t make it back.”

After serving, Vietnam veterans returned home to a divided country and a cold reception. For Vietnam veterans, commemorations give them a new kind of homecoming.

“It was 13 years before anybody thanked me for my service,” Reilly said. “It makes such a big difference for us to be able to walk down the street … and have people just say two words: thank you. That’s all we ever asked for.”

For more information on the commemoration, click here or here.