March 29 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday will mark the first anniversary of National Vietnam Veterans Day — an observance introduced a year ago by President Donald Trump to honor veterans who felt alienated for years after the war.
The Pentagon will hold a wreath-laying ceremony at Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. — honoring the veterans for the first time since Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017.
“We are proud to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs in this endeavor,” Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a statement. “Today is an opportunity to honor all Vietnam veterans who served, and to recognize the families that stood alongside them.”
The department will be joined Thursday by more than 11,000 organizations nationwide celebrating and honoring Vietnam veterans.
About nine million Americans served in the conflict between 1955 and 1975. The Pentagon said it makes no distinction between veterans who served in-county, in-theater or were stationed elsewhere during the 20 years of the conflict.
“During this commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, we embrace our responsibility to help our Vietnam veterans and their families heal from the heavy toll of war,” Trump said in a presidential proclamation.
“We remember the more than 58,000 whose names are memorialized on a black granite wall in our nation’s capital for having borne the heaviest cost of war.”
The Vietnam memorial was dedicated in 1982 and lists every U.S. serviceman and woman who served in the conflict.
“I don’t think any other president would’ve had the nerve to do something like this,” Retired Army Maj. Rick Homer said of Trump’s proclamation. “The only one I ever had any faith in was Ronald Reagan.”
Trump, who was of age to serve in Vietnam and graduated from college at the height of the draft, received five deferments: four in college and one for a medical condition after he graduated.