FORT HOOD, Texas - Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Fort Hood’s Clear Creek Exchange and Clear Creek Commissary teamed up to pay tribute to the men and women who served the nation during the Vietnam War with a pinning ceremony here, March 29.
“These are Soldiers, Air Force, Marine and Navy personnel who fought the war and didn’t get the welcome they should have gotten when they came home,” Col. Jason Wesbrock, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, said about the commemoration.
In 2012, the United States began a 13-year commemoration of the Vietnam War, remembering more than 58,000 Vietnam veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice, as well as honoring nearly 500,000 troops who served in South Vietnam. In 2017, President Donald Trump designated March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Defense Commissary Agency joined approximately 11,000 organizations around the U.S. who honored Vietnam veterans with a pinning ceremony. Veterans who served on active duty from Nov. 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, could receive a lapel pin.
“This is an honorable thing they’re doing. When we (originally) returned home, we were unwanted,” retired 1st Sgt. Herbert Perez, said about the ceremony. “Some gave and some gave all. This is what it’s all about.”
Many of the veterans at the ceremony were thankful they were finally being honored, not shamed, for being part of the Vietnam War.
“When I was in, they would tell us, don’t wear your uniform (off post),” retired Air Force Sgt. Pete Tristan, shared about returning from Vietnam.
He and other veterans shared that returning home from Vietnam was not like service members returning home in today’s military. They were shamed, they were threatened and they feared for their lives in the country they call home. They were not even given an actual welcome home. All that changed Monday.
“It feels good. An actual welcome home ... finally,” retired Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rick Butts, said. “It took them long enough.”
Chris Haefner, general manager of the Fort Hood Exchange, said it was an honor to be part of the ceremony because they all deserve to be recognized after 50 years.
“It is an honor to be here and be amongst these individuals who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Haefner added.
Wesbrock added that the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who served during the Vietnam War helped pave the way for those who serve today, so it is an honor to thank them for their service in some small way.
“They built the backbone of the Army – how we fight and how we organize,” Wesbrock added. “We grew up in an Army they created and we’re now carrying their legacy.”