Honoring Those Who Served In Vietnam

U.S. Senator Larry Craig

If you are a Vietnam veteran, thank you for your service to our nation.  If you know a Vietnam veteran, please thank them for me.  These are America's heroes, and we all owe them a deep debt of gratitude.  We can never thank them enough.

      They went to Vietnam to help the free people of the south defend themselves from the tyranny of the north.  They went to stop the spread of communism, which was at that time making gains throughout the world and which represented a serious long-term threat to America.

      They were there to live out President Kennedy's pledge: "Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

      It was a noble call.  It was a noble effort.  It is tragic that our political leaders failed them when the troops on the ground needed them the most.

      Thirty years ago, on April 30, 1975, the American war in Vietnam ended.  Thirty years later, as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, my job is to be an advocate for all of our nation's veterans - from the few survivors still with us from World War I to the youngest veterans returning today from Iraq.  But the veterans from Vietnam will always hold a special place in my heart.

      This is my generation, and now I am responsible to see that they receive the best care this nation can provide.  I do not intend to see those who served in Vietnam failed again by their political leaders.

      Those who of us who grew up during the war in Vietnam remember it like it was yesterday.  Every day the body count on the nightly news. Stories of atrocities.  A few stories of survival.  Stories of heroic deeds.  Protests on high school and college campuses.  Riots in the streets of America.  Some avoiding the draft by running off to Canada. The Mi Lai Massacre.  The Tet Offensive.  Soldiers shooting and killing students at Kent State.

      It was a turbulent time.  It was a maddening time.  It was a time never to be forgotten.

      Of the 20,000 National Guardsmen who served in Vietnam, 97 were killed. Their names are now part of the 58,245 names etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  They gave their lives, the last full measure of devotion.  They gave their todays so that we may have our tomorrows.  The numbers of those who gave their lives are staggering.

      Today, the men and women of the Idaho National Guard's 116th Cavalry Brigade carry on in the proud footsteps of their forefathers. And now, as Abraham Lincoln said, it is for us, the living to be dedicated to their unfinished work of freedom, even as we find ourselves in another great war.

      We are doing that in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Because of our quick military action, both of those nations have recently held free elections.  Now democracy is on the march across the region.  Libya has opened its doors and seeks to improve its relations with the United States.  Syria has been evicted by the people of Lebanon.  Saudi Arabia and Egypt are opening up their doors of their electoral process.

      Is the situation perfect?  No.  Are things getting better?  Yes!

      The lessons we learned in Vietnam provided the foundation for our military successes in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And to that we must say "thank you" again to our veterans who served in Vietnam.