Fifty years ago next week marks a major milestone for the United States military when all combat troops exited South Vietnam on March 29, 1973 – two months after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords to end the war.
Coinciding with the withdrawal of troops was also the release of American prisoners of war by the North Vietnamese government.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day on March 29 officially honors the 9 million military men and women who served both in Southeast Asia and other duty stations at home and around the world during the 1960s and 70s. President Barack Obama proclaimed March 29, 2012, as Vietnam Veterans Day, and President Donald J. Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.
Two local Vietnam Veterans of America chapters, however, will recognize the annual National Vietnam War Veterans Day on Saturday, so more people may attend the ceremonies.
VVA chapter 388 in Carson City begins the observances with a ceremony at Mills Park beginning at 11 a.m. During the ceremony near the Vietnam memorial, several speakers will reflect on service and sacrifice during the Vietnam War, and the names of the state’s fallen are also read near the end of the ceremony.
VVA 388 President Tom Spencer said the ceremony will last about an hour so attendees have enough time to travel to the remembrance ceremony in Sparks.
“Let Freedom Ring” is this year’s theme for the second ceremony at the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza, 300 Howard Drive on the west side of the Sparks Marina.
J.R. Stafford, president of the VVA 989, and Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir, who is also a member NVMP, will welcome guests at the beginning of the formal ceremony. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony at 2 p.m. Prior to the ceremony, Stafford said outreach tables featuring different military and military-related organizations will be available to answer questions and to distribute material pertinent to their mission.
Remembering veterans who served during the Vietnam War is important for Stafford. He served in South Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force and completed a four-decade career in the U.S Coast Guard Reserve. Stafford spent parts of 1967 and 1968 at Da Nang Air Base as a Morse intercept operator with the 6924th Security Squadron.
According to Stafford, Saturday’s ceremony will also honor veterans from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan with a tribute to Gold Star families. His favorite saying incorporates all veterans, but specifically those from Iraq and Afghanistan who join their brothers and sisters from Vietnam:
“Never Again Will One Generation Of Veterans Abandon Another!”
Stafford said three wreaths will also be placed beginning with the Vietnam War veterans, all veterans and the Gold Star families.
This year’s guest speaker is Nevada Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony, and Army veteran 1st Lt. Andy LePeilbet, who served in Vietnam and was a recipient of both the Silver and Bronze stars, will read “These Honored Dead” and a poem, “Why I Stand.”
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