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A day to honor Vietnam veterans

A paratrooper of A Co., 101st Airborne Division, guides a medical evacuation helicopter into a gap in the foliage to pick up casualties who were wounded during a patrol into North Vietnamese-controlled territory west of Hue in Vietnam in 1968.AP Photo/file

I was recently made aware that March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day. I confess that I never knew that such a day existed. I suspect that many of my fellow Vietnam veterans are unaware that they are to be celebrated on this day. Being relegated to a day in March with little fanfare seems to be consistent with how this country has treated Vietnam veterans for the last six decades.

There is a photograph that has haunted me for longer than I care to remember. It depicts a converted tank loaded with wounded Marines who had been fighting for their lives at the city of Hue during the Tet Offensive. They are wounded terribly. You can almost feel the life ebbing away from one of the Marines. Many who saw the photograph assumed he died. He didn’t. He survived and has lived a productive life as a father and grandfather.


There is no one, no matter their level of erudition, who could convince me that those young Marines on that tank were any less courageous or valiant than those who stormed the beaches at Tarawa in World War II or Inchon in the Korean War.

I don’t know whether any of us is looking for parades or applause so much as simply the recognition that we served as honorably as anyone else.

Thomas J. Irwin


The writer served as a Marine corporal in Vietnam in 1969 and ‘70.