2017-03-30 / Editorial

March 30 is day to honor Vietnam veterans

Legislative Lowdown
by Rep. Martin Grohman

In Vietnam, it was the 29th of March. Here in the United States, on the other side of the international date line, it was March 30. On that day in 1973, the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the last prisoners of war held in North Vietnam arrived on American soil. The number of U.S. troops in Vietnam peaked at 543,000 in April 1969, including many hundreds from Biddeford and the surrounding area. More than 9 million Americans in total served in Vietnam in some capacity, including many women, often as combat nurses.

In 2008, the Secretary of Defense was authorized by law to conduct a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. The inaugural event occurred at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, commonly known as “The Wall,” in Washington, D.C., in 2012. President Obama was the keynote speaker, and this groundbreaking event was attended by the most senior military and civilian leaders, but most importantly … thousands of Vietnam veterans and their families … the true VIPs.

The president’s words were powerful. He stated, and I quote, “One of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam – most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there. You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. And that’s why here today we resolve that it will not happen again.”

Building on that testimony, the state of Maine has declared March 30 as Vietnam Veterans Day. Together with Gov. Paul LePage and legislative leaders, I am presenting to the House of Representatives on this day, a resolution honoring those veterans and their families. Today and every day, please join me in thanking a Vietnam veteran on this day of remembrance.

Thank you to Joseph Armstrong, head of the Maine Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, for help with this article. As always, I encourage you to get in touch with me at 283-1476 or martin.grohman@legislature.maine.gov.

Rep. Martin Grohman (D-Biddeford) is serving his second term in the Maine Legislature. Outside the legislature, he is chairman of the Solid Waste Commission in Biddeford, and the owner of a small company called Hellocycle which does alkaline battery recycling by mail.

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