York veteran wants national day for Vietnam vets
Just a day. That's all Vietnam veteran Harold Redding wants.
More specifically March 29, the day in 1973 when the last American troops left Vietnam. That's the date he wants set aside to honor and remember Vietnam veterans, those who made it home and those who didn't.
"It's not a holiday that I'm looking for. It's just a day of recognition," said Redding, 67, in the kitchen of his North Codorus Township home.
Redding, who retired from the Army as a first sergeant in 1997 after 23 years of service, has for nine months been leading the local charge to bring recognition to himself and fellow vets. As a self-proclaimed tenacious man, he said he won't give up on the cause until March 29 becomes National Vietnam Veterans Day.
"Not a day goes by I don't write a letter, place a phone call, do something," he said. "I plan to devote as much time as I can for the rest of my life on this."
The effort: Redding's foray into petitioning elected officials has taken him before York County commissioners and to meetings with state Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, and U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County.
The commissioners in July passed a resolution calling on Congress to establish a day of recognition for the veterans. Grove introduced a resolution that also asks Congress to set aside a date for Vietnam veterans.
Grove's measure, House Resolution 500, has nearly 90 co-sponsors and is in the House Veteran Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee. It would mark the 50th anniversary of the battle in the Ia Drang Valley on Nov. 14 as Vietnam Veteran Recognition Day in Pennsylvania. The battle was the first major engagement of the war.
"We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their service," said Grove, whose dad is a Vietnam War veteran. "You want to honor a group of people who weren't thanked by their county ... They deserve it."
Perry in July introduced House Resolution 401, which supports the idea of a Vietnam Veterans Day, but Redding said he fears the resolution, as others before it, could die in committee before coming up for a floor vote.
"As a veteran, we know we have to fight, and we're used to that," he said. "Most Vietnam veterans are now in their middle 60s, which adds to the urgency of this initiative."
Won't forget: Redding enlisted in the Army at age 18, and he was sent to Vietnam in 1966. He turned 19 there before coming home to his young bride in 1967.
When he arrived in the southeast Asian country, one thing came to his mind.
"My greatest fear (was) something would happen to me and no one would remember what happened," he said.
Now, he fears that veterans from the conflict won't receive the recognition they deserve. All he wants is Congress to pass a bill that allows the president to proclaim March 29 National Vietnam Veterans Day, he said.
Numerous other states have made that date their day of observance.
As part of his efforts, Redding has been drumming up support among veteran organizations, including local VFWs.
Other dates: As part of his research, Redding discovered numerous dates on the federal calendar are already circled to honor people or accomplishments. They include days of observation that are little-known.
Pan American Aviation Day is Dec. 17. Loyalty Day and Law Day, U.S.A. share May 1. Even Greek Independence Day is officially observed in the United States on March 25.
"Don't tell me we Vietnam veterans don't deserve a day," Redding said, looking over a long list of federal observation days.
Veterans of other wars are honored, too. A yearly presidential proclamation makes July 27 National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day. All veterans are honored on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11. Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is a day to remember all of America's veterans who died in active service.
Redding said he has received some resistance from elected officials who say there are already enough national days of recognition for veterans.
"They are the ones that sent us (to Vietnam). Asking for a day isn't asking too much," Redding said.
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.