Originally Published: March 30, 2018 6 a.m.
For Vietnam veteran Bob Wallace, this year was a chance to say thank you to his comrades.
“In 1968, I arrived in Da Nang and served until the end of (1969),” he said. “To all of my Vietnam veteran brothers, I say welcome home.”
Wallace led the Pledge of Allegiance at the VA’s 50th Anniversary Vietnam Veteran Recognition Thursday, March 29. The Vietnam War was a “fairly long occasion” and it feels like the war’s 50th anniversary has been celebrated for a number of years, he said.
On March 29, 2012, then-President Barack Obama proclaimed the date Vietnam Veterans Day, calling for a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the war through Veterans Day 2025. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 into law, designating March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
About 60 percent of the veterans the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System serves are Vietnam-era veterans, said Medical Center Director Barbara Oemcke. When they came home, the nation did not honor and recognize their service properly, Oemcke said.
“That’s why we’re taking all these opportunities nationally with VA and here in Northern Arizona to make sure that we say ‘thank you for your service and welcome home,” she said. “There are some 58,000 Vietnam veterans who didn’t come home to be able to stand here today. History makes it clear that it’s important that we recognize and honor all of you who served.”
When he went to Vietnam, Wallace said he couldn’t wait to get over there and serve his country. Though there were a lot of people in the United States who didn’t support the war, for those who served it was a noble cause, he said. When they got home, they didn’t expect any thanks nor did they get any thanks, Wallace said.
Vietnam veterans returned home to a society divided by the war with many people viewing them with distrust and anger.
Still, the response he received when returning did not bother him, Wallace said. Rather, he saw the reaction as people not understanding what others did on their behalf, he said. It’s a different world now where veterans are recognized more readily which is a good thing, Wallace said.
It does feel very rewarding to be recognized for his service as a Vietnam Veteran said Dick Bell who was also at Thursday’s event. The recognition is nice, Bell said.
“That makes a difference,” he said. “It really does.”