Larry Dandridge

National Vietnam War Veterans Day is March 29


It is again that time of the year that we pay tribute to America’s brave and selfless Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and their families who served on active duty during the Vietnam War between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975.

The Island News team joins all Americans in thanking and honoring our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice to our great nation and their comrades.

The American War Library estimates that approximately two-thirds of the U.S. veterans who served in the Vietnam War are already gone. So time is running out for us to recognize these courageous men and women who wore the cloth of our great nation in America’s most controversial 20-year war.

How to hold a Vietnam War Veterans Day event

If your organization is interested in hosting a patriotic event to recognize our Vietnam Veterans and their families, you can watch the Army-Air Force Exchange video, titled Hosting a COVID-Safe Vietnam Pinning Event, at https://vimeo.com/522872358. You should also visit The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration website at https://bit.ly/3q5eFwE.

Free lapel pins, certificates, bumper stickers, posters and more

You will find at the U.S. American Vietnam War Commemoration website instructions on how to order free event materials, which include lapel pins, certificates of honor, presidential proclamations, brochures, posters, bumper stickers, a request form, and instructions on how to safely present a Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin.

The site also has instructions on how to become a commemorative partner, application forms, commemorative partner listing, partner map, POW/MIA recognition information, missing man table ceremony instructions, and a partner portal.

Vietnam War Veterans Day in Washington, D.C.

This year, our nation’s military leaders, along with Vietnam War Gold Star family representatives (families who lost a military immediate family member while serving), will participate in a national joint wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. on the morning of March 29.

Vietnam War Veterans Day history

President Barack Obama first proclaimed March 29, 2012, as Vietnam Veterans Day. March 29 was chosen because on March 29, 1973, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disbanded and the last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam. The proclamation called upon “All Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.”

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017. This act officially recognizes March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day. The Act also includes the day among those days on which the U.S. flag should especially be displayed.

S.C. General Assembly Proclamation

The South Carolina General Assembly’s 124th Session, House Resolution H.4995 declared March 29, 2022, as the day “TO RECOGNIZE AND HONOR THE BRAVE VETERANS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES WHO SERVED IN THE VIETNAM WAR AND TO DECLARE TUESDAY, MARCH 29, 2022, AS “WELCOME HOME VIETNAM VETERANS DAY” IN SOUTH CAROLINA. You can read this resolution at https://bit.ly/3u0Je7N.

Lowcountry Vietnam War Veteran events

9 a.m., Saturday, March 26, Operation Patriots Forward Operating Base (OPFOB), 328 Lakeview Drive, Ridgeland. OPFOB chose Saturday so that families, children, grandchildren could attend. The event is open to the public, all veterans, all active-duty military, and their families. The Mission of OPFOB is to help reduce the alarming rate of veteran suicides (22 every day). OPFOB is dedicated to creating and fostering positive experiences for Combat Veterans by connecting through outdoor and recreational activities.

The event will kick off with coffee and a light breakfast at 9 a.m. at the barn. The Marine Corps Band will begin playing around 9:45 a.m. and guests will move to the flagpole where the ceremony will take place. A Color Guard will also participate. Vietnam veterans will be honored and there will be a dedication for OPFOR’s flagpole. Local dignitaries are being invited and the event will be covered by the press. Point of contact is Suzi C. Oliver, RN, 843-540-7478, suzi_oliver@yahoo.com, https://opfob.org.

Saturday, March 26, Navy Exchange (NEX) Beaufort Hospital, 1 Pickney Boulevard, Building 1, Room 254, Beaufort. A Vietnam War Veterans Day event to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families. Point of contact is Shakyra Saunders, 843-494-8342, William.Marx#nexweb.org.

Saturday, March 26, Paris Island MCRD Commissary, Building 407, Wake Boulevard, Parris Island. A Vietnam War Veterans Day event to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families. Point of contact is Jennifer Ferrell, noemail@deca.mil, 804-734-8000.

Saturday, March 26, Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) 0160 Parris Island, Building 406, Parris Island. A Vietnam War Veterans Day event to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families. Point of contact is Kerry Pascal, 843-525-3301, Katelyn.Philippsen@usmc-mccs.org.

1 p.m., Sunday, March 27, Welcome Home! Vietnam War Veterans Day Commemoration at Buckwalter Place Park Armed Forces Memorial, 2 Venture Drive, Bluffton. Presented by Caris Healthcare. The event will include presentation of colors with the Pledge of Allegiance, live performance of the national anthem, motivational readings, Vietnam Veterans lapel pin presentation to Vietnam Veterans, lapel pin presentation to veterans’ spouses, veteran information tables, and veterans’ representatives, and light refreshments (water and cupcakes). The point of contact is Sandy at 843-473-3939.

Sunday, March 27, Savannah, Ga., Hunter Army Airfield Commissary, 89 Haley Street, building 6025, Savannah. A Vietnam War Veterans Day event to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families. Point of contact is Jennifer Ferrell, noemail@deca.mil, 804-734-8000.

10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, March 29, Mount Pleasant Patriots Point Naval Museum and Foundation. Patriots Point will commemorate the sacrifices of those who served in the Vietnam War. Vietnam War Veterans Day at Patriots Point is giving the public a chance to meet some of the heroes who served in the Vietnam War.

In the Vietnam Experience exhibit, several veterans will be sharing stories of their service. Guests can ask questions and examine the veterans’ personal artifacts and memorabilia. At 11:30 a.m., visitors can attend a ceremony that will include a bag-pipe performance, benediction, and a moment of silence.

The event is free and open to the public. General admission tickets will be required for those wishing to see the rest of the museum exhibits aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and USS Laffey destroyer.

All Vietnam War Veterans and their spouses will receive free admission on March 29. Point of Contact is Jeff Jacobs, Finelyretired@gmail.com, 843-819-9835, PatriotsPointFoundation.org.

Tuesday, March 29, Veterans Canteen Service (Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center), #534, 109 Bee Street, Charleston. A Vietnam War Veterans Day event to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families. Point of contact is Brian P. Vorce, Brian.Vorce@va.gov, 314-845-1224, www.va.gov.

Tuesday, March 29, Charleston Veterans Center, 3625 West Montague Avenue, North Charleston. A Vietnam Veterans pinning ceremony drive-thru. Expectations of 100 veterans and family members. Point of contact is Brenda Richardson, 843-789-7000, brend.richardson@va.gov. This is a DRIVE THRU event.

Tuesday, March 29, Charleston Naval Weapons Station Commissary, 1797 Red Bank Road, Building 764, Goose Creek. A Vietnam War Veterans Day event to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families. Point of contact is Commissary Officer Jennifer Ferrell, 843-764-2020, Jennifer.Ferrell@deca.mil.

Tuesday, March 29, Charleston Air Force Base Commissary, 103 Lawson Drive, Building 1991, Charleston AFB. A Vietnam War Veterans Day event to thank and honor Vietnam Veterans and their families. Point of contact is Commissary Officer Jennifer Ferrell, 843-764-2020, Jennifer.Ferrell@deca.mil.

Tuesday, March 29, Sumter County, Scotts Branch Middle-High School, 9253, Alex Harvin Highway, Summerton. Veterans and their spouses will be served lunch and honored with a recognition program. Point of contact is Kenneth L. Benjamin, 803-773-8514, kenndian@msn.com.

Interesting Statistics about the Vietnam War

According to the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot’s Association (VHPA) and other references, the average age of 58,148 Americans killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years. 11,465 KIAs were younger than 20 years old.

One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. Out of 2.59 million who served in-country, 58,169 were killed and 304,000 wounded. Although the percentage who died was similar to other wars, amputations or crippling wounds were 300 percent higher than in World War II. 75,000 Vietnam veterans are severely disabled and the war resulted in over 10,000 amputations.

Servicemen who went to Vietnam from well-to-do areas had a slightly elevated risk of dying because they were more likely to be helicopter pilots or infantry officers. Vietnam veterans were the best-educated forces our nation had ever sent into combat – 79 percent had a high school education or better.

Two-thirds of the men who served in Vietnam were volunteers. Two-thirds of the men who served in World War II were drafted. Approximately 70 percent of those killed in Vietnam were volunteers, while 97 percent of Vietnam veterans were discharged under honorable conditions; the same percentage of honorable discharges as 10 years prior to Vietnam. Then 85 percent of Vietnam Veterans made a successful transition to civilian life.

Vietnam veterans are less likely to be in prison than those people in the general population. Only half of one percent of Vietnam Veterans have been jailed for crimes. There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam veterans and nonveterans of the same age group (from a Veterans Administration study). Racially, 86 percent of the men who died in Vietnam were Caucasians, 12.5 percent were black, 1.2 percent were of other races. Vietnam veterans’ personal income exceeds that of our non-veteran age group by more than 18 percent.

There is a reason the Vietnam War is frequently called The Helicopter War in Vietnam. It is estimated that the Huey (Uh-1B, C, D, and H) Helicopter and the Cobra (AH-1G) Helicopter flew 1,166,344 flight hours in Vietnam and have more combat flight time than any other aircraft in the history of warfare. Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopters flew nearly 500,000 missions. More than 900,000 patients were airlifted. Nearly half the patients airlifted were American. The average time lapse between wounding to hospitalization was less than one hour, called the golden hour. As a result, less than one percent of all Americans wounded who survived the first 24 hours died.

The helicopter provided unprecedented mobility. Without the helicopter, it would have taken three times as many troops to secure the 800-mile border with Cambodia and Laos (the politicians thought the Geneva Conventions of 1954 and the Geneva Accords or 1962 would secure the border. More than 40,000 military helicopter pilots served in Vietnam and most were Army. About 12,000 helicopters served in Vietnam and more than 5,600 helicopters were totally destroyed. More than 5,000 helicopter crew members (officers and enlisted men) were killed in Vietnam.

I close this article with one recommendation. Please remember that the families of Vietnam veterans and really the families of all war veterans are the ones who carried the heaviest load, the most stress, and sacrificed the most.

When I was in Vietnam, I was too busy flying every day and night to worry much, too exhausted to think much about loneliness or bills to be paid, too focused on surviving to worry about raising my infant daughter, and too distracted by the war to think about who was walking the dog and doing all the other things my young wife was exhausted from back home in S.C.

The truth is that is parents, wives, children, and grandparents who sacrifice the most in every war. Please do not forget to thank them for their tremendous and brave service to our country and their Soldier, Marine, Sailor, Airman, or Coast Guardsman.

Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War wounded warrior, disabled veteran, ex-Enlisted Infantryman, ex-Warrant Officer Pilot, and retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, a Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Hospital, the Fisher House Charleston Good Will Ambassador, and the VP for Veteran Affairs for the local Army Association Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning book Blades of Thunder and a contributing free-lance writer with the Island News. Contact him at LDandridge@earthlink.net or 843-276-7164.

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