Veterans

May 29, 2012

Panetta, Dempsey recall Vietnam vets’ valor, sacrifice

by Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, salutes during the playing of the national anthem as Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, look on during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., May 28, 2012.

The Defense Department’s most senior leaders May 28 honored Vietnam War veterans, including their own friends and mentors, in a commemoration at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall they said was long overdue.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and actor Tom Selleck all mentioned friends and mentors whose names are among the 58,282 etched into the black granite panels. They joined President Barack Obama in a ceremony marking the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the war.

The Vietnam War ended in April 1975 when North Vietnamese troops took the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon. While the end date is a certainty, it is a mirror of the war and the divisions it caused that Americans still disagree on when U.S. involvement in the country began.

American advisers were dying with their South Vietnamese soldiers in the mid-1950s. But historians – and the Defense Department – are commemorating the 50th anniversary of U.S. involvement in Vietnam now.

“At this hour, and at this hallowed memorial, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War – a war that occupies a central place in the American story,” Panetta said. “Millions of Americans were sent across the Pacific to a little known place to fight in the service of the country they loved.”

Participating in the service was especially moving to Panetta, he said, because he went through ROTC and served in the Army with some of those killed in Vietnam.

“No memorial better reflects the pain of the sacrifices that were made (than this one),” he said.

Millions of American served in Vietnam and, at one point, well over 500,000 U.S. service members were deployed there. They returned, Panetta said, to a country that “failed to fully acknowledge their service, their sacrifice and failed to give them the honor they so justly deserved.”

The Vietnam generation “is graying now,” Panetta said. But it is not too late for the commemoration of Vietnam to right the wrongs of the past, he said.

The secretary spoke of his recent participation in a ceremony presenting the Medal of Honor to the widow of Army Spec. 4 Les Sabo. Sabo, a member of the famed 101st Airborne Division, died saving his platoon in 1970. The award recommendation was lost for years before another Screaming Eagle found it and revived the process.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta escorts 93-year-old Sarah Shay to lay a wreath in remembrance of her son, Maj. Donald Shay Jr., during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., May 28, 2012. Maj. Shay has been missing in action from the Vietnam War for 42 years.

“The story of Les, in many ways, is the story of the Vietnam War: We forgot and now we finally remember,” Panetta said.

Dempsey noted that some people called the war – and the wall – a scar.

“But history’s temperance allows us to see success where some only saw failure, to see hope where some only saw loss, and to see valor where some simply refused to look,” he said.

The war’s 50th anniversary gives Americans the opportunity to look, the chairman said.

Dempsey recalled being a 16-year-old in upstate New York and watching Capt. John Graham come back from the war, motivating him to want to be a Soldier himself.

“I remember the day in 1971 when Captain John Graham was buried at West Point,” Dempsey said. “He died during his second tour advising the South Vietnamese Army. His son is now on West Point’s faculty.”

The chairman also spoke of Army Warrant Officer Roy Thomas, a gunship pilot with the 25th Infantry Division.

“He died in battle when his son was four months old,” the chairman said. “His son is an Air Force officer on my staff.”

Those men are just two examples that echo thousands more who share a martial bond with their forbearers, Dempsey said.

“Whether they served in Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan, whether they returned home or we still await their homecoming, there is no difference in their courage and sense of duty,” he said. “There is no difference when it comes to fear and suffering, on the front line and on the home front. There is no difference in the love and longing of their families.

“And, there is no difference in the wounds that remain both seen and unseen.”

Their example calls for Americans to resolve to “never again allow our veterans and their families to be left alone, left to feel outside, left to fend for themselves,” Dempsey said. “And let us resolve today to not just say ‘welcome home,’ but to truly welcome our troops home with the respect and care that they and their families have earned.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Marine Corps photograph by Lance Cpl. Joseph Scanlon

Cannon Cockers mark 10-Year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Marine Corps photograph by Lance Cpl. Joseph Scanlon Danny Acosta, a retired first sergeant who served with 11th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom and a native of Valencia, Calif., poses with his family for a pictu...
 
 
palmdale-army1

Top ten percent

Col. Omar Jones, commander, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division presents a certificate of achievement to Spec. Uritze Snelling, a native of Palmdale, Calif., 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd ABCT, 4th Inf. D...
 
 
Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

OATH leads to new home for Veteran Jerral Hancock

Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds Kaelynn Edwards, Nicole Skinner and Army Spec. Jerral Hancock have a laugh via Skype with Gary Sinise of the Lt. Dan Band during a conference at Lancaster High School. History teacher Jamie Go...
 

 

Hagel orders overhaul of POW/MIA identification agencies

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced March 31 that he’s ordered an overhaul of the Pentagon agencies responsible for recovering and identifying the remains of America’s war dead. The reorganization seeks to consolidate the mission, improve efficiency and increase the number of remains identified by the two key agencies charged with POW-MIA accounting efforts — the...
 
 

Half of vets on G.I. Bill graduate, report estimates

A little more than half of the veterans who got college money under the GI Bill since 2009 eventually graduated, though many took longer to do it, a new study estimates. The report released March 214 estimated that 51.7 percent of student veterans earned a degree or certificate for some kind of higher education. That’s...
 
 

Veterans unemployment rate dropped in 2013

The unemployment rate for Iraq- and Afghanistan-era veterans dropped in 2013, according to Labor Department statistics announced March 20. The unemployment rate fell to 9 percent last year for veterans who served on active duty since September 2001. The jobless rate for all veterans also edged down to 6.6 percent. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>