Column – Thank a Vietnam veteran for service to country

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

By Tom Mastaglio

Guest columnist

National Vietnam War Veterans Day is observed on March 29.  It was designated as such by the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 signed by President Donald Trump to recognize the over 6 million U.S. military veterans who served during the Vietnam War.  

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President Barack Obama called “upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies and activities that commemorate the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.”  March 29 was chosen because on that date in 1973 the last U.S. combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam. All 6 million men and women who served in the US military from Aug. 5, 1964, through May 7, 1975, are considered Vietnam-era veterans.

Last year President Joe Biden reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to commemorate the war’s 50th anniversary, which began on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012, and will continue through Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2025.  He called upon all Americans to seek out and extend the nation’s profound gratitude to our Vietnam veterans and their families and caretakers, expressing compassion for the families of the fallen, those who remain missing and unaccounted for, and all others who served yet no longer walk among us. 

Locally we recognize these veterans at the Smithfield American Legion’s annual dinner, in some local churches during their weekly services and through special programs at the Isle of Wight County Museum. But there are few local and regional public events to acknowledge this national day of recognition.  

Given the paucity of public recognition of this holiday in our area, I am calling on each of you to take the time to remember the service of our men and women who served as well as the families of veterans during the week of March 29 by privately acknowledging them. Consider doing this personally by contacting those you know or encounter at stores, restaurants and in other public places who are Vietnam-era veterans. 

That generation is generally proud of their service in spite of the lack of appreciation at the time shown to those who served in the war zone then returned home or any who publicly wore the uniform. They were not just disrespected but often denigrated as a focus for the frustration of those politically opposed to the war. Despite these anti-war protestors representing a minority demographic in our country, there was a failure by the silent majority to nevertheless publicly acknowledge the sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coast guardsmen. Vietnam-era veterans can be recognized by the proud display of inscriptions on their hats, shirts and jackets that announce they are Vietnam War veterans.  

Regardless of your politics, then or now, I implore you to recognize those who served by “welcoming them home” and thanking them for their service. Perhaps more civic organizations can next year organize public ceremonies to acknowledge the sacrifice of these veterans and the families who lost loved ones in the Vietnam conflict.  

Our veterans deserve and would appreciate nothing more than a show of appreciation for their sacrifices.


Tom Mastaglio is media and publicity coordinator for American Legion Post 49 in Smithfield. His email address is