In Memory Honor Roll
Tomorrow at The Wall, we will add 534 Vietnam Veterans to our In Memory Honor Roll. This program honors those who served, returned home, and later died as a result of their service. They do not meet the DoD criteria to be added to The Wall, but we remember their service in the place our nation has set aside to honor Vietnam veterans.
You may know a family that has lost their Vietnam veteran to the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, or PTSD/suicide, or to some other cause. You probably know that the families of these Vietnam veterans often suffered alongside their veterans for decades.
The In Memory Program recognizes and honors the service and sacrifice of these Vietnam veterans, and offers their families the opportunity to have their loved ones recognized – some for the first time ever.
As more of our Vietnam veterans’ lives are cut short due to their service, the In Memory Program will become more important than ever.
For this annual ceremony, we invite the families of the honorees to attend, and we give someone from each family the opportunity to come onto the stage and read the name of their loved one. For some, their loved ones died long ago, but for others the loss is very new. One woman is burying her husband at Arlington National Cemetery TODAY, and will read his name at The Wall tomorrow.
This program and ceremony are part of our commitment to never forget our Vietnam veterans.
Below are the comments I will share with attendees tomorrow. I hope you will take a minute to honor and remember these Vietnam Veterans and their families.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
Today, in the shadow of The Wall, we honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and have since died as a result of their service.
The Vietnam War was unpopular at home, yet nearly three million Americans served in-country during that time.
They served for lots of reasons . . . a legal requirement to serve when drafted, a sense of duty when called upon by their country, or even so that others did not have to serve. From all the Vietnam veterans I meet, I can tell you that almost all are proud of their service and would stand in defense of their country again if asked.
Thankfully, most returned home from the war. However, for many, coming home from Vietnam was just the beginning of a whole new fight. Many never fully recovered, either physically or emotionally, from their experiences.
That is why the In Memory Program exists – because only a fraction of the casualties actually died on the battlefields of Vietnam.
Many more carried their wounds back and suffered long after the actual fighting ended. As these service members pass, it is our duty and our solemn promise to welcome them home to this place that our nation has set aside to remember our Vietnam veterans.
While they may not meet the Department of Defense criteria for addition to The Wall, they certainly are worthy of joining their brothers and sisters in this place of honor and remembrance.
For many of the family members here today, this ceremony is bittersweet. Your loss is still new. While that pain lingers, you are proud of your Vietnam Veteran and happy to see them finally receive the recognition they deserve.
The In Memory Program has brought you all together here today. Look Around. You all have endured tremendous loss. We want you to know – you are not alone.
I offer you this thought, which I hope will bring you some comfort – our Vietnam veterans took upon themselves the commitment to never allow another generation of men and women go into harm’s way for their country without the respect and honor they deserve. That is part of their legacy, and the next time you hear someone say, “thanks for your service” to someone in uniform, you can take comfort in knowing that thanks also is being extended to your loved one.
More than 3,600 service members already are a part of the In Memory Honor Roll, and today we add another 534. I challenge each of you’re here to find another family that has lost their Vietnam veteran and tell them about the In Memory Program, so we can add them to our Honor Roll.
Together, we’ll make sure that their sacrifices – and those of their families – will never be forgotten. For as long as this memorial stands, and as long as visitors come to this place to learn, your loved ones will be remembered.