Special to Valley News
Over the last two decades, we have all watched ceremonies on TV or maybe even in person welcoming home hundreds of thousands of troops from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. As an Army veteran of several different conflicts, I was one of those troops. I can tell you it was overwhelming to see and feel the love and pride emanating from the people cheering, crying and waving flags and signs as we stepped off that plane.
We got our welcome home, but not all service members had that experience. So this Veterans Day, as part of the 50-year commemoration of the Vietnam War, I want to publicly thank and welcome home our Vietnam veterans who may not have received the heartfelt appreciation they deserved when returning home from an unpopular war.
Many of these veterans were left struggling alone to readjust to life and fight new foes such as loneliness, social isolation and addiction. Over time, some of the wounds have healed, and steps have been taken to give them the long-overdue hero’s welcome and support they deserve.
In 2012, our nation launched a 13-year long commitment to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War Commemoration program, https://www.vietnamwar50th.com/, was established to thank and honor Vietnam War era veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice and runs through Veterans Day 2025.
In hopes of reaching the millions of Vietnam War era veterans, the commemoration program has enlisted the help of partner organizations at the local, state and national levels to help thank and honor these veterans and their families. There have been pinning and proclamation ceremonies across the country to honor all military service members who were on active duty, regardless of location, between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, and present them with a lapel pin as a lasting memento of the nation’s thanks for their service. These events also help foster social connections, reduce loneliness and social isolation and provide veterans and their families with programs and resources to address their social needs.
As a member of a company that serves as one of these community partners, I have had the honor of supporting many of these pinning ceremonies for Vietnam War era veterans and their families in Humana’s southwest region. Through this and other programs, we hope to provide veterans an opportunity to share their service stories and receive the gratitude and support they have earned.
On this Veterans Day, let’s take a moment to thank all the Americans who have so nobly served or currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces – but especially those whose sacrifices and service during the Vietnam War have long gone unrecognized.
Thank you and welcome home.
Scott Mathis is the southwest region veteran executive for Humana California.