EDITORIAL: A day for Vietnam veterans
Harold Redding doesn't really think he's asking for much.
The North Codorus Township resident, a 23-year Army veteran, wants the country to recognize National Vietnam Veterans Day every year.
"It's not a holiday that I'm looking for. It's just a day of recognition," said the 67-year-old former first sergeant.
Redding suggests March 29, the date in 1973 when the last U.S. troops left the southeast Asian country, ending what was, at the time, America's longest war.
Considering the dozens of other "official days" on the books — Greek Independence Day, anyone? How about National Good Neighbor Day or Leif Erikson Day? — Redding's cause should be a slam dunk.
If we can honor a Viking who landed in Greenland a thousand years ago, surely we can acknowledge our fathers and grandfathers for fighting a war on our behalf.
Surprisingly, that hasn't been the case.
Although Redding has been at this for nine months — writing letters, making phone calls, doing "something" every day — others have spent years lobbying for a National Vietnam Veterans Day.
Previous resolutions to establish a day of recognition have died in committee, Redding said, and he fears a new effort by Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, will meet the same fate.
He might have better luck with a state recognition of Vietnam veterans.
State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, has taken up the cause and has nearly 90 co-sponsors of a bill to mark the 50th anniversary of the battle in the Ia Drang Valley on Nov. 14 as Vietnam Veteran Recognition Day in Pennsylvania.
The bill is in the House Veteran Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
Still, why not a national day to recognize Vietnam veterans?
Redding said some elected officials he has approached say there are already enough national days of recognition for veterans.
Granted, the country already pauses on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. And there's a National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day and a National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
But there's something unique about the Vietnam War that sets it apart from other conflicts. That is the shameful way this country treated service members — mostly men, but some women — on their return from the battlefield.
In addition to being the longest, the Vietnam conflict also was a deeply unpopular war. Many Americans blamed the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in the quagmire, rather than the politicians who orchestrated it.
Rather than feeling embraced, many Vietnam veterans felt shunned when they returned home.
Never mind, the veterans simply answered their country's call, and about 25 percent were drafted and never had a choice in the matter to begin with.
"They are the ones that sent us (to Vietnam)," Redding said of politicians. "Asking for a day isn't asking too much."
Let's make March 29, 2016, the first annual National Vietnam Veterans Day.