This Memorial Day, many Vietnam vets, long silent, are finding a voice
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam war, and President Obama will pay tribute Monday. It's a sign that, at last, Vietnam vets are being and feeling embraced.
In Pictures Memorial Day: remembering the fallen
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This year, however, the city decided to skip the stop along its parade route at the modest Vietnam memorial nestled in a corner of the campus of a local high school that saw 11 of its graduates die in the war. “The argument is based on ‘We are one country that has fought many wars,’ ” Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk told the hometown newspaper. “With veterans returned and returning from Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., the concern was that every war would end up with its own Memorial Day service.”
As the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam war this year, the choice of this particular Memorial Day to cut the Vietnam war memorial from the parade route hit particularly hard, says Mr. Nestor.
But what happened next was a poignant and surprising show of community support, he adds: The city’s office, Facebook, and Twitter pages were inundated with calls to keep the Vietnam memorial stop along route. “The outpouring was absolutely astonishing.”
In Washington on Monday, President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will take part in a ceremony at the wall to remember the start of the unpopular war, and to pay tribute to the more than 58,000 Americans who died fighting it.
Indeed, as the half-century commemoration of the war approaches, advocates say that Vietnam veterans across the country are increasingly – though still gradually and cautiously – stepping out to accept tributes of gratitude for their service.
“They were so damaged and they were so upset--for years, they didn’t want to remember a very bad experience that we as a country made worse,” Nestor says. “We’re still trying to bring them back out of obscurity, and in an imperfect way, to say belatedly that we appreciate what you do.”