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VIETNAM WAR 50TH ANNIVERSARY


Nothing about the Vietnam War was easy. It was a conflict that took place halfway around the world in a country divided by decades of bitter fighting. Battlefields were treacherous. Front lines were blurred by dense jungles, rice paddies, thick mountainous forests, and acres of swampy grasslands. The enemy was nearly invisible. The threat of ambush lurked on every patrol, in every city, and inside every remote village. The enemy was highly skilled in the art of guerrilla warfare. Survival meant dodging mortars, rockets and artillery, staying alert for mines, booby traps, snipers, and "civilians" who weren't always innocent bystanders. Soldiers from every branch fought fierce battles on land, water, and in the air. In addition to firefights in hamlets and hillsides, soldiers pursued the elusive Viet Cong (VC) in elaborate caves and tunnel systems, gunboats patrolled the waterways, jet fighters and choppers defended the sky. Not only did the VC represent a serious threat but the well trained, well equipped North Vietnamese Army (NVA) proved to be a formidable adversary.



The names of far away places bring back memories for those who were there from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Mekong Delta...from Hanoi to Saigon...the A Shau Valley, Dong Ha, Quang Tri, Khe Sanh, Hue, Da Nang, and the mountains of Guang Binh. Besides taking on an unconventional, fully-entrenched enemy, the landscape itself worked against them. Oppressive heat, monsoon rains, poisonous snakes and scorpions, blood thirsty mosquitoes and the threat of malaria pushed every soldier to the limit. There are countless stories of men and women in uniform raising to the challenge of battle. There are tales of sacrifice and heroism in the field, stories of courage and perseverance among the POWs, and examples of ordinary young men and women becoming extraordinary American heroes. Sadly, many Vietnam veterans were treated badly upon arriving home by a "less than greatful nation" who turned their backs on these brave warriors. Even though they never lost a major battle during the entire war they were later accused of loosing the war. They didn't loose, at no point did the United States admit defeat or sign surrender papers with the North Vietnamese Government. The US Government, swayed by political unrest and media bias, decided to withdraw combat troops from South Vietnam.



America's involvement in Vietnam spanned three decades and it's estimated that more than 2,5000,000 Americans served in Vietnam, over 70% of whom were volunteers. In April 1969, US Forces in Vietnam peaked at 543,000 troops. More than 58,000 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice and another 365,000 were wounded. The average combat vet in Vietnam served over 200 days of combat in one year, compared to the WWII combat vet who served 40 days of combat in four years. Those numbers are truly staggering, and America can never repay all those who sacrificed and served.



As the United States officially marks it's observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War we honor those who answered the call to duty. Today, we can touch the names of more than 58,000 fallen Vietnam veterans etched in stone in Washington D.C. We can thank them quietly for their service and keep them forever in our hearts. It is also important to keep their memories alive. It's our duty to share their stories of struggle, sacrifice and victory. The same way that their parents and grandparents bravely accepted the challenges of Korea and two World Wars, the veterans of Vietnam left loved ones and the comforts of home to defend our American way of life. As Americans, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all those who courageously served our country when they were called.





"...remember those who served, those who fought...those still missing, and those who gave their last full measure of devotion for our country."

-President Ronald Reagan 11 November, 1988 Address at Vietnam Veteran's Memorial-
 
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