On Saturday, the Newton County Historical Society sponsored a special program to recognize and honor Vietnam veterans. Eight veterans who served during the Vietnam War were asked to tell their stories, stories that need to be remembered. For most of these veterans, it has been forty-plus years since they served. These men were just eight of the three million Americans who took part in the effort.
In this sixteen- to nineteen-year-long war, America lost 58,148 service men and women; another 75,000 were severely disabled from injuries, while 23,214 were totally disabled. Sixty-one percent of those who were killed were under the age of twenty-one; 11, 465 Americans lost were under the age of twenty. Of the total number who died, 17,539 were married, some with families. Another 1,875 are still missing and unaccounted for. Over one million North Vietnamese lives were lost, and 250,000 South Vietnamese died, not counting women and children. Nine-seven percent of all Vietnam veterans received an honorable discharge from the military upon returning to the states. Ninety-one percent stated they felt privileged to have been able to serve their country. The majority of those who returned made a successful transition back into civilian life.
Military service requires special people who are willing to make a commitment to their country, along with making a substantial personal sacrifice. Even in peacetime, military servicemen and women are often faced with long separations from their families as they may be called upon to serve in faraway places and areas where dangers are many times prevalent. When duty calls, family members must share in the sacrifice and the separation of deployment.
Military service also brings rewards. There is great pride in serving a nation who pursuit is peace. While we are not perfect, no other nation or military power in the history of the world has courageously liberated more oppressed people or upheld a higher standard of decency than the armed forces of the United States of America.
The contributions of those who served our nation must never be taken for granted. To honor our veterans, we must show them due respect, and we must keep the promises that were made to them. As a nation we must care for those who have been injured in the service to our country. We must honor and remember those who died for liberty and try to account for those who are still missing.
American veterans are still the pride of our nation. To help show our appreciation to our veterans, shake their hands when you see them, thank them for their services, and let them know their sacrifices are not forgotten. Our lasting gratitude and thankfulness goes to all of America’s veterans who were so willing to serve. Novelist Cynthia Ozick expressed it well when she said, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”