BREMERTON, Wash. –
While Vietnam Veterans Day and Medal of Honor Day may not be as well-known as other military-centric holidays such as Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, they deservedly recognize the well-known valor of an elite few, as well as the unsung service of millions of others.
VIETNAM VETERANS DAY
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation designating March 29 as the annual observance of Vietnam Veterans Day. March 29, 1973, was the day the last American combat forces departed from Vietnam. Only U.S. embassy personnel and support staff remained in South Vietnam until the fall of Saigon April 30, 1975.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, more than nine million Americans served from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975 — the official dates of the Vietnam War. Six million of those men and women are still living. More than 58,000 Americans were killed during the war, with thousands more injured or missing in action.
The proclamation explained why there is a need to single out and recognize the service and sacrifice of the veterans of that war.
“Many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected — to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example. We must never let this happen again. Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations: to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us,” the proclamation reads.
The holiday makes no distinction between veterans who served in-country or in theater, or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period, as all of them were called to serve and none of them could self-determine where they would serve.
Groups can join the Vietnam War Commemoration as commemorative partners by visiting www.vietnamwar50th.com and clicking “Apply” in the blue Commemorative Partner Program box.
MEDAL OF HONOR DAY
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed Public Law 101-564, which designated March 25 as a day to honor the heroism and sacrifice of Medal of Honor recipients.
The date was selected in commemoration of the first Medals of Honor that were ever awarded, March 25, 1863, to 23 men who participated in a raid on the Confederate rail network, April 12, 1862. That action has become known as the Great Locomotive Chase.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for bravery that can be awarded to members of America’s armed forces – for exceptional acts of valor.
According to the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the United States, out of all the millions of people who have served in the U.S. military, only 3,530 Medals of Honor have been awarded — including 19 to people who have earned the award twice — as well as Dr. Mary E. Walker, the only woman to have received the award.
People earn the award. They are referred to as Medal of Honor recipients or Medal of Honor awardees. They are not Medal of Honor winners. People win contests and raffles. Medals of Honor are hard-earned, with about one in six of the medals being awarded posthumously.
This partial excerpt from the law explains the reasoning for creating an official Medal of Honor Day. The wording of the law may be part of the common confusion over the name of the award. The official name of the award is the Medal of Honor, not the Congressional Medal of Honor, as it is commonly referred to in many Hollywood movies.
“Whereas the Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the president, in the name of the congress, to members of the armed forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty ... Whereas public awareness of the importance of the Medal of Honor has declined in recent years; and Whereas the designation of National Medal of Honor Day will focus the efforts of national, State, and local organizations striving to foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients."
Some ways to commemorate Medal of Honor Day:
• Observe a “Moment of Honor,” at 3:25 p.m. (EDT), which is a moment of quiet reflection upon the actions and bravery of the nation’s Medal of Honor recipients.
• Perform a simple act of kindness that benefits your community.
• Make a poster or write a letter about what National Medal of Honor Day means to you and post it to social media using the hashtags #MedalOfHonor or #MedalOfHonorDay.
• Fly Old Glory March 25, in honor of National Medal of Honor Day. Take a photo of the flag and post it to social media using the hashtags #MedalOfHonor or #MedalOfHonorDay.
• Apply a Facebook frame around your profile pic denoting Medal of Honor Day.