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Georgia to honor Vietnam veterans

David Epps's picture

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 25, in the North Wing of the state Capitol, Governor Nathan Deal will issue a proclamation declaring March 29, 2014 as Vietnam Veterans Day in Georgia.

The theme of the ceremony, which falls on National Medal of Honor Day, is “A Tribute to Georgia’s Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipients,” and the Georgia Department of Veterans Service will individually recognize each of the state’s 12 native sons who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

“Vietnam veterans deserve our sincere respect, appreciation, and public recognition,” said Georgia Department of Veteran Services Commissioner Pete Wheeler. “We gather to honor the brave Georgians who served in that conflict and we honor the service of every man and woman who put on a uniform and answered their nation’s call to service.”

An estimated 254,000 Georgia residents — approximately one-third of the state’s total veteran population — are Vietnam War veterans. As the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War begins, it is fitting — and long overdue — to pay tribute to the service and sacrifices of these brave men and women.

The following are Vietnam War facts and figures:
• 8.7 million Americans served on active duty
• 7,391,000 Vietnam War veterans are alive today
• 228,000 Georgians served
• 1,584 Georgians were killed in action
• 8,534 Georgians were wounded in action
• 21 Georgians were held as prisoners of war
• 35 Georgians are still missing in action or otherwise unaccounted for

When the first Gulf War began, the church I served honored the two men from our congregation who served in Iraq. Later, on July 4th, we began a tradition of asking every veteran from all services and all conflicts, including the Cold War, to come forward and be recognized. That year, and every year following, the veterans received a standing ovation.

After the first recognition, I received a phone call from the wife of an Army vet who served in Vietnam. She said he went home from church and cried all day.

I said, “Oh, I am so sorry.”

She said, “No, don’t feel bad. He was so overcome because it’s the first time anybody ever said ‘thank you’ for his service in Vietnam.”

The Vietnam veterans were every bit as courageous, heroic, patriotic, and honorable as any other vet in any other war. They did their duty. They were faithful. However, they were the people betrayed by many of their fellow countrymen and the politicians. They won the battles. America lost the war.

When the two young men at our church were returning from the first conflict in the desert, a lady at church asked me, “Do you think they will be treated like the Vietnam veterans were?”

“No,” I said.

“Why not?” she inquired.

“Because,“ I replied, “these are the children of the Vietnam veterans. They will never allow it to happen again.”

And they haven’t. As the Vietnam Veterans of America have long stated, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

58,286 U. S. military personnel died in Vietnam. 153,303 were wounded in combat. They have long deserved our respect, our admiration, and our appreciation. It’s about time that they are recognized as the heroes they are.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He is a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran. He may contacted at frepps@ctkcec.org.]

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