Despite all the bloodshed and sacrifices they made, their contributions to our country had been swept under the carpet for far too long.
Though it may have taken much longer than it should have, there are signs that our brave veterans of the Vietnam War have slowly begun to receive their just due.
Further proof of that was evidenced by a service to honor the start of the 47th anniversary of the Vietnam War Tuesday in the Palmerton Borough Park.
Sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Organization of Carbon County, the event got under way with Harry J. Wynn III, vice commander, who gave opening remarks.
Daniel Bauer, chaplain, gave the invocation, before Wynn introduced a trio of highly regarded guest speakers.
Henry M. Desrosiers, DVA, Carbon County, noted that 47 years ago, in Aug. of 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed, which gave then-President Lyndon Johnson the authorization for the use of conventional military force in Southeast Asia, without a formal declaration of war from Congress.
Desrosiers, who was 12 at the time, said he had no interest in international affairs at that point in his life.
"I watched, over the next several years, as our country escalated our combat troops in Vietnam," Desrosiers said. "Vietnam was always in the news. It was an unpopular war here in the United States; peace rallies and massive protests were common."
Desrosiers said that he never imagined that four weeks after he graduated high school, he would go on to enlist in the Air Force.
"Did I regret my actions; no, I did not, nor did every man and woman who served their country during the Vietnam era," he said. "We were all honorable people who lived up to our country's pledge to defend democracy, and we did the best we could."
However, their return home was another story, as Desrosiers said the majority of the returning troops were met with criticism and hostility, rather than receive a welcome fitting for the sacrifices they made for our country.
Desrosiers said it took 38 years before the United States Senate passed a resolution to designate a 'Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day' for those who lost their lives, and the hundred of thousands more who didn't receive proper recognition when they returned home.
"Vietnam Veterans Day is a chance to repair the wrong done to these troops," he said. "Our contracts were completed with honor and dignity. We know that they are doing the same."
Desrosiers remarked that this past Saturday, 22 Navy Seals and eight other U.S. Service members paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country while stationed in Afghanistan, and asked that we remember them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.
Floyd C. Brown, Commander, VVOCC, said the purpose of the event was to "commemorate the beginning of the Vietnam War."
"It was an unpopular war," Brown said. "In years to come, we got to remember this day."
Ed Moyer, Commander, American Legion Post 269, Palmerton, UVO, thanked the Vietnam Veterans of Carbon County for coming to Palmerton to celebrate the 47th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
"Most of us chose to enlist and fulfill our obligation to help free the oppressed people of South Vietnam," Moyer said. "Here we are celebrating the anniversary of the war, and proud to say that we would be honored to do it all over again."
Moyer noted that from Aug. 5, 1964 to May 17, 1975, 9,087,000 US Military personnel served on active duty; 2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam; 58,148 American soldiers died in Vietnam - 61 percent of those were younger than 21 - and that there are still 1,875 Americans unaccounted for.
Palmerton has over 550 Vietnam veterans, said Moyer, who thanked all of the Carbon County Vietnam Veterans in attendance, as well as all our veterans that have served and continue to serve at present.
Wayne Nothstein, Carbon County Commissioner and Vietnam Era Air Force Veteran, was next to speak.
Nothstein said the Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia which began in Nov. of 1955, and ended with the fall of Saigon on April 30 of 1975 when the city was captured by the North Vietnamese Army.
He said then-President Richard Nixon was able to start peace negotiations, and on Jan. 27, 1973, a cease-fire was signed in Paris by the United States. The last American troops departed on March 29, 1973, he said.
"The United States did not lose the war in Vietnam; the South Vietnamese did with the fall of Saigon," Nothstein said. "However, this perceived loss of the war would result in the United States losing its confidence in American leadership, in Asia, and throughout the world."
All told, Nothstein said 58,148 were killed in Vietnam; 14 of whom were from Carbon County and some still listed as MIAs.
"The Vietnam War was a difficult time for our military personnel," he said. "They were hated by many, and often times called baby killers."
Nothstein said "it was not a time when you could be proud to be wearing a military uniform", and added "no soldier should ever be ashamed to wear the uniform of a US Military Personnel."
"For those who served in Vietnam or during that time, hold your head high, be proud you are an American Military Veteran," he said. "I encourage all Americans to recognize Vietnam Veterans for their sacrifice, and offer a warm welcome to those who returned from the war to a politically divided country. You have earned, and deserve to be recognized, for your service and sacrifices. May you all find happiness and comfort knowing that people do care and thank you."
Nothstein ended by saying "God Bless our veterans, our military personnel and their families, and please bring all military personnel home safely to their loved ones."
Wayne Wentz, Adjutant, then read the names of the 14 Carbon County residents who died in the Vietnam War.
Bauer then gave the benediction, and the firing squad saluted the dead.
On a final note, Moyer announced that borough resident Richard Nothstein will once again sponsor a bus trip to Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Oct. 4, for veterans who have not make the trip the prior three years.
Forms may be picked up at the Country Harvest Family Market, 572 Delaware Avenue, the Carbon County Veterans Office, or local veterans offices.