ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Few Americans had ever heard of the Gulf of Tonkin prior to Aug. 2, 1964 and those who did had no idea how a confrontation between three North Vietnamese torpedo boats and one U.S. destroyer in that gulf would change world history.Congress awarded then President Lyndon B. Johnson the power to escalate American involvement and vastly increase the nation's military presence, making an official entry into a long and costly campaign -- costly not only in dollars, but in American lives.The U.S. armed forces' toll in the Vietnam War was 58,253 American lives and 153,363 wounded. In 1973, 2,646 U.S. military personnel were considered POW/MIA in South East Asia, with 1, 971 in Vietnam, 575 in Laos, 90 in Cambodia and 10 in the Philippines.With this issue, the APG News joins thousands of other organizations and programs around the country who are remembering the veterans of the Vietnam War during the official 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration. The APG News commemoration will include monthly profiles of local Vietnam War veterans sharing their stories about the roles they played in the conflict and focus on how the experience affected their later lives.Highlights of the war's historic events and noteworthy engagements by America and its allies will be included along with the conflict's impact on APG, its Soldiers, mission and the surrounding community.Objectives In Accordance with Public Law 110-181 SEC. 598 and the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act which authorized the Secretary of Defense to conduct a program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the APG Vietnam War series marking the commemorative program includes the following objectives:To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as Prisoners of War (POW), or listed as Missing in Action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.To highlight the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the armed forces.To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.To highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.To recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Flag The traditional use of the color gold to signify a 50th anniversary was chosen for the phrase "50th Anniversary" and symbolizes the specific mission of the Department of Defense program as outlined in the Congressional language "to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War."A representation of the Vietnam Service Medal (ribbon) rests below the inner rings.The red, white, and blue inner rings represent the flag of the United States of America and recognizes all Americans, military and civilian, who served or contributed to the Vietnam War effort.The outer black ring serves as a reminder of those who were held as Prisoners of War or listed as Missing in Action during the Vietnam War. The black ring surrounds the red, white, and blue rings to call attention to their sacrifices, the sacrifices of their Families, and the defense of the nation's freedom.Within the blue ring are the words "Service, Valor and Sacrifice:" virtues demonstrated by American forces during the Vietnam War. The gold-rimmed white star located between the words "Service" and "Valor" represents hope for the Families POW/MIA veterans. The blue-rimmed gold star located between the words "Valor" and "Sacrifice" represents the surviving Families. The blue star at the bottom of the inner blue ring represents the Families of all veterans.At the bottom of the inner blue ring are six white stars, three on each side of the blue star. These six white stars symbolize the contributions and sacrifices made by the United States and its allies: Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, and Thailand.The center circle contains a map of Vietnam in black outline relief, signifying Vietnam and its veterans. The subdued outlines of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and surrounding waters represent the areas where American forces served. The green laurel wreath signifies honor for all who served.The phrase "A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You" is a message to every veteran, civilian, Family member, and all who served and sacrificed during the Vietnam War.The seal's blue background is the same color as the canton in the United States Flag. The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration commemorative flag is not for sale at this time. Organizations that become Commemorative Partners are eligible to receive the commemorative flag.To become an official Commemorative Partner, organizations must submit an application and a signed Statement of Understanding. Applications are available at www.VietnamWar50th.com on the Commemorative Partner Program.Questions regarding the Commemorative Partner Program application process can be directed to: whs.vnwar50th_cpp@mail.mil.Local contributions Local veterans or APG civilians who served during the war and are willing to share their stories are encouraged to contact the APG News at 410-278-1148 or email yvonne.johnson5.ctr@mail.mil.