On January 12, 1962, United States pilots lifted more than 1,000 South Vietnamese service members over jungle and underbrush to capture a National Liberation Front stronghold near Saigon. Operation Chopper marked America's first combat mission against the Viet Cong, and the beginning of one of our longest and most challenging wars. Through more than a decade of conflict that tested the fabric of our Nation, the service of our men and women in uniform stood true. Over fifty years after that fateful mission, we honor the more than 3 million Americans who served, we pay tribute to those we have laid to rest, and we reaffirm our dedication to showing a generation of veterans the respect and support of a grateful Nation.
The Vietnam War is a story of service members of different
backgrounds, colors, and creeds who came together to complete a daunting
mission. It is a story of Americans from every corner of our Nation
who left the warmth of family to serve the country they loved. It is a
story of patriots who braved the line of fire, who cast themselves into
harm's way to save a friend, who fought hour after hour, day after day
to preserve the liberties we hold dear. From Ia Drang to Hue, they won
every major battle of the war and upheld the highest traditions of our
Eleven years of combat left their imprint on a generation. Thousands
returned home bearing shrapnel and scars; still more were burdened by
the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress, of Agent Orange, of
memories that would never fade. More than 58,000 laid down their lives
in service to our Nation. Now and forever, their names are etched into
two faces of black granite, a lasting memorial to those who bore
conflict's greatest cost.
Our veterans answered our country's call and served with honor, and
on March 29, 1973, the last of our troops left Vietnam. Yet, in one of
the war's most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home
to be shunned or neglected -- to face treatment unbefitting their
courage and a welcome unworthy of their example. We must never let this
Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental
obligations: to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States
the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by
serving them as well as they served us. Half a century after those
helicopters swept off the ground and into the annals of history, we pay
tribute to the fallen, the missing, the wounded, the millions who
served, and the millions more who awaited their return. Our Nation
stands stronger for their service, and on Vietnam Veterans Day, we honor
their proud legacy with our deepest gratitude.
March 29th, the anniversary of the Vietnam War, has been proclaimed as Vietnam Veterans Day, with a call to all Americans to observe this day
with programs, ceremonies, and activities which are mindful of the service and sacrifices of those who served in Vietnam. Welcome home!