Five decades and multipleinternational conflicts involving the U.S. later, more than a dozen Vietnam War veterans on Friday were honored for their service in a war that many Americans resented at the time.
U.S. Rep Jennifer Wexton (D-VA-10) on Friday at the Purcellville Baptist Church pinned 17 Vietnam War veterans with honorary medals commending them for their service in a war that America pulled out of in 1975 before North Vietnam took control and imposed a communist state. During the ceremony, jointly hosted by the U.S.A. Vietnam War Commemoration, the vets were also handed presidential proclamations of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in June and gives Vietnam veterans who served on naval ships up to 12 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam the ability to claim disability benefits for diseases caused by their exposure to Agent Orange and other chemicals during the war.
Wexton said she was unsure if there has ever been a Vietnam War veteran pinning ceremony in the 10th District and that it was a ceremony she “wanted to make happen.”
“It’s showing that we appreciate their service to their country, and it’s never too late to honor them for that service,” she said.
Retired U.S. Army Brigadier General John P. Rose, who served in the armed forces for 30 years and fought in Vietnam from March 1969 to April 1970, also addressed the veterans and others in attendance. Rose said that President George W. Bush began setting up the Vietnam War Commemoration and that President Barrack Obama completed it in 2012—proclaiming that Memorial Day 2012 to Memorial Day 2025 would go in the books as a 13-year Vietnam War commemoration.
Rose said that Vietnam War veterans fought under the leadership of six U.S. presidents, from President Harry S. Truman in the ‘50s to President Gerald Ford in the ‘70s. He noted that of the millions of Vietnam veterans who fought decades ago, 7 million are still alive today, many of whom still suffer mentally and physically.
Rose also pointed out that more than 58,000 Americans died in combat, 1,500 of which are still unaccounted for, and that 7,484 women, eight of which died, served alongside their male counterparts.
He further noted that many of the Vietnam War veterans who returned home from battle felt it easier to be in Vietnam than back at home, considering the amount of resentment they encountered from war protesters.
“You helped build the country to what it is today,” he told his fellow vets. “In my view, it’s the Vietnam veterans that made America great again.”
Following the pinning ceremony was a resource fair in which veteran service organizations and regional community veteran engagement boards provided the veterans with information on the recently-passed act. The Virginia Department of Veteran Services and VA Veterans Benefits Administration also were on hand talking veterans through the claims filing processes.
Before the president signed the Blue Water NavyVietnam Veterans Act into law on June 25, naval veterans were unable to claim disability benefits for exposure to Agent Orange, while veterans who served on land between 1962 and 1975 have been able to do so since the Agent Orange Act of 1991 went into effect.