50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration

By Panetta, Leon E. | U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, May 28, 2012 | Go to article overview

50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration


Panetta, Leon E., U.S. Department of Defense Speeches


As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC, Monday, May 28, 2012

I'm honored to be here today with all of you as we begin the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of America's participation in the Vietnam War.

Memorial Day is an appropriate opportunity for all Americans to come together, to pay tribute to all those who have fought and died for our country, across more than two hundred years, and on battlefields near and far.

America's sons and daughters have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our liberties, to give all of us a better life. At this hour, at this hallowed and haunting memorial, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War--a war that occupies a central place in the American story.

Millions of Americans were sent across the Pacific to a little known place to fight in the service of the country they loved.

Not only at this hour, but at all times, we remember and carry in our hearts the more than 58,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen whose names are inscribed on this dark wall for eternity.

For me personally, this is an especially moving moment. As a member and later chairman of the Vietnam Era Veterans Caucus in the House of Representatives, I had the honor to work on the endowment of this memorial. To see the names of soldiers that I served with inscribed on this wall. To see the names of officers who went through ROTC with me at Santa Clara inscribed on this wall. To know my good friend Everett Alvarez, a hero from this war and a classmate of mine, who served with great distinction in that war.

No memorial better reflects the pain of the sacrifices that were made.

Many more came home from that war to a country that failed to fully acknowledge their service and their sacrifice, and failed to give them the honor they so justly deserved.

That experience, that failure to thank those who were willing to put their lives on the line for this country, was burned into the soul of my generation. For too many Vietnam veterans, the recognition of their bravery came too late.

The Vietnam generation, my generation--is graying now. But this commemoration effort gives the country an opportunity, today and in the years ahead, to try and right the wrongs of the past, to remember those who served in this war and what they did for us, their service, and their sacrifice on our behalf.

Last week, I had the opportunity to join the President in paying tribute to a fallen member of that generation, Specialist Les Sabo, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor.

Les Sabo died in Vietnam saving his brothers-in-arms. …

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