The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration today hosted “Welcome Home! A Nation Honors our Vietnam Veterans and their Families,” on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The event, held over three days, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the withdrawal of the last combat troops from South Vietnam in 1973.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro expressed gratitude to attendees from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand for their unwavering support during the Vietnam War. He emphasized the importance of reflecting on this significant period in U.S. history and honoring the Vietnam veterans who sacrificed for their country.
Del Toro shared his personal connection to the veterans, acknowledging their impact on his life and career. He stated, “I am indebted to them, for they helped shape my character, and helped me become a more proficient Navy officer, a better leader, and a better secretary of the Navy.”
The ceremony also featured guest speaker, former Army 1st Lt. Brian Miles Thacker, a Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient. Thacker expressed humility and emphasized that his award was a collective recognition of the sacrifices and support of his fellow soldiers and personnel.
Remembering those who did not return, Thacker solemnly described his encounters with Gold Star families and the profound impact it had on him. He recounted his experiences during the war, highlighting a pivotal battle in Kontum Province, South Vietnam, where he demonstrated exceptional bravery and leadership.
Thacker’s citation detailed his heroic actions, including directing friendly air strikes and artillery fire against the enemy forces while withstanding a sustained attack. Despite being wounded, he called for artillery fire on his own position, allowing his comrades to safely withdraw. Thacker remained evasive for eight days until friendly forces regained control of the fire base.
Secretary Del Toro acknowledged the sacrifices made by Vietnam veterans and their families, emphasizing the unwavering support and solidarity they receive from the nation. He concluded, “You have our thanks, our respect, and our steadfast support.”
The commemorative event serves as a reminder of the valor and resilience displayed by Vietnam veterans, as the nation pays tribute to their service and the lasting impact of the Vietnam War.