By Kevin Jackson, AMCDecember 6, 2016
McALESTER ARMY AMMUNITION PLANT, Okla. -- They have waited for as long as 50 years for the nation to correct an injustice done to them.
That finally changed for 27 Vietnam veterans employed here, who were recognized, thanked and honored for their service by Brig. Gen. Richard B. Dix, commanding general, Joint Munitions Command, immediately before the retreat ceremony, Nov. 28.
Another 26 were unable to attend and will be recognized for their service later.
"When you guys came home more than 50 years ago, we didn't get it right," Dix said as he addressed the vets and MCAAP staff gathered for the ceremony in front of the headquarters.
"My faith and my belief tells me that it is never too late to say thank you. So on behalf of the President of the United States, Congress, and the people of the United States, I want to say thank you for a job well done."
The recognition is part of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration. The intent is to honor Vietnam-era veterans and their families, the fallen, the wounded, those who were held as prisoners of war, those listed as missing and unaccounted for, and organizations that served or supported the Armed Forces, and our Allies throughout the year.
Joint Munitions Command Headquarters at Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., is one of the 10,474 commemoration partners reaching out to honor the vets in events nationwide.
At each visit to units throughout his command, Dix has thanked Vietnam Veterans. The commemoration events are personal for him. His father, the late John R. Dix, served as a Marine in Vietnam.
Today, there are 7.2 million living Vietnam veterans, who served between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, according to the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration website.
"It doesn't matter their branch of service, we are going to say thank you so the journey never stops until we get all 7.2 million recognized and we say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation," said Dix.
While appreciated, the injustice of the past remains painful for some veterans.
"Most Vietnam-era and Vietnam Veterans have reconciled their less than grateful and too often, disrespectful treatment over the years," said Rick Spier, MCAAP's Department of the Army security force supervisor. "A big part of the reconciliation was the overwhelming pride and patriotism shown the Desert Storm veterans on their return, then the same level of respect shown the current generation of veterans following 9-11."
Each MCAAP Vietnam Veteran received a certificate signed by Dix, a Vietnam Veteran lapel pin and a bumper sticker commemorating their service, valor and sacrifice.
The front of the lapel pin contains an eagle, blue circle, laurel wreath, stripes and stars. The inscription on the back reads, "A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You. USA Vietnam War Commemoration."
The effort to honor Vietnam Veterans was initiated with passage of 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 Army began the task of identifying its veterans in 2012.
MCAAP's Vietnam vets are James Allen, Ronald Brazel, Brent Bundy, Norris Butler, Daniel Campbell, James Carman, Stephen Crider, Rickie Curtis, James Garman, Kent Hackett, Ralph W. Hall, Robert Haislet, James Harmon, Larry Haynes, Robert Heathcock, Eugene Herrod, Terry Heskett, Dewane Hoffman, Thomas Huff, Robert Kaskie, Gerald Kenyon, Sammie Kinchion, Ernest Linam, Ronald Markus, Robert Meeks, Terry Mines, Hinton S. Nelms Jr., Paul L. Osterhout Jr., Maximiniano Pacada Jr., Calvin Perreault, Larry Phipps, Stanley Pruitt, Dennis Redditt, Jimmy Scott, Steven Scott, Richard Semtner, Larry Shackelford, Donald Shoals, Larry Shrum, James Smith, Larry South, Rick Spier, Daniel Sturtevant, David Tice, Larry Tolbert, Sarah Trent, John Turner, Gary Vanlaningham, Melva Webber, Donald B. Williams, Ralph Yeazel, Robert Young, Stephen Zdeb.
MCAAP is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial base facilities under the U.S. Army Materiel Command.