||Tomorrow, on March 29, we commemorate National Vietnam War Veterans Day, and the City of Richmond is a Commemorative Partner in the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Commemorative Partner Program. See National Vietnam War Veterans Day PSA on Vimeo.
We all pretty much understand in hindsight that the Vietnam War was a bad idea based on poor political judgment and leadership with an unfortunate conclusion. For those of us who were teenagers and twenty-somethings in the 1960s, especially those whose fathers fought in WWII, we went and did our duty – in my case 54 years ago.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day is not about glorifying the war but instead is a recognition of the approximately 2.7 million men and women who served on the ground in Vietnam or its surrounding waters – some 58,000 of which did not return alive. It is estimated that in 2023, approximately 610,000 of that 2.7 million are still alive.
My MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 1331, Combat Engineer Unit Commander, but I was more fortunate than many. I served in the Corps of Engineers, building roads, bridges and other infrastructure.. For my typical “day at the office,” see any of the following:
- Tom Butt, Vietnam 1969-70, HHC 159th Engineer Group, 20th Engineer Brigade
- Mission to Ham Tan, Vietnam 1969
- Construction of Corduroy Road, MSR Zinc, Vietnam 1969
- Saigon from the Rooftop1969
- The Streets of Saigon 1969
- Mission to Vung Tau, Vietnam 1969
- Party for Children of Mama Sans, Long Binh, Vietnam 1969
- Vietnam from Above 1969
- Phu Cuong Float Bridge, Vietnam 1969
- Changing of Command, 159th Engr. Gp., Vietnam 1969
See more of my story at To Vietnam and Back.
Figure 1 - Tom Butt
Figure 2 - Field briefing at road construction project
Figure 3 - Road construction
Figure 4 - Rock crusher
Figure 5 - The 159th Engineer Group was awarded Meritorious Unit Commendations in 1969 and 1971 and a Vietnamese Civil Action Honor Medal, First Class in 1970.
Figure 6 - Going Away Plaque, March 1970
Figure 7 - The men of HHC 169th Engineer Group, 1969
Figure 8 - Tom Butt at the Phu Cuong Pontoon Bridge, 1969
Figure 9 - Cleaned and pressed, ready for the next war
Figure 10 - Two years in the Army summarized in two column inches
There will be 1,000 ceremonies throughout the Nation on or around NVWVD devoted to thanking and honoring Vietnam veterans. We welcome you to join us virtually for a Joint Wreath-Laying Ceremony on Wednesday, March 29 at 10 a.m. at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. View the live-streamed ceremony via our Facebook page or the Department of Defense streaming page.
- The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 was signed into law by 45th U.S. President Donald J. Trump, designating every 29 March as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
- This special day joins six other military-centric annual observances codified in Title 4 of the United States Code §6, among them Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
- 29 March is a fitting choice for a day honoring Vietnam veterans. It was chosen to be observed in perpetuity as March 29, 1973 was the day United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disestablished and also the day the last U.S. combat troops departed Vietnam. In addition, on and around this same day Hanoi released the last of its acknowledged prisoners of war.
- The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration honors all veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, and their families.
- November 1, 1955 was selected to coincide with the official designation of Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam (MAAG-V); May 15, 1975 marks the end of the battle precipitated by the seizure of the SS Mayaguez.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that today there are more than 7 million U.S. Vietnam veterans living in America and abroad, along with 10 million families of those who served during this timeframe.
- We make no distinction between veterans who served in-country, in-theater, or who were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period. All were called to serve and none could self-determine where they would serve.
- U.S. involvement in Vietnam started slowly with an initial deployment of advisors in the early 1950s, grew incrementally through the early 1960s and expanded with the deployment of full combat units in July 1965. The last U.S. personnel were evacuated from Vietnam in April 1975.
- This national commemoration was authorized by Congress, established under the Secretary of Defense, and launched by the President to thank and honor our Nation’s Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.
- In 2007, the 110th Congress incorporated language in House of Representatives (H.R.) 4986 authorizing the secretary of defense to conduct a program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
- H.R. 4986 was signed into law as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2008 by 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush on January 28, 2008.
- 44th U.S. President Barack Obama officially inaugurated this Commemoration at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day, May 28, 2012.
- Section 598 (Public Law 110-181) of the 2008 NDAA specifically addresses Commemoration activities.
- Congress outlined a total of five objectives for The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, with the primary objective being to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the Nation, with distinct recognition of former prisoners of war and families of those still listed as missing in action.
- The four remaining objectives highlight the service of our Armed Forces and support organizations during the war; pay tribute to wartime contributions at home by American citizens; highlight technology, science and medical advances made during the war; and recognize contributions by our Allies.
- By Presidential Proclamation, The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration will continue through Veterans Day, November 11, 2025.