The Vietnam War era was a “tumultuous and confusing” time, but American citizens owe a debt of gratitude to those who served their country in that war.
So stated Sen. Butch Miller as he addressed a room full of Vietnam War veterans and their families at the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 17 meeting in Oakwood on Thursday.
Miller was joined by Harry Evans, regional director for the Georgia Department of Veterans Services. The department, in partnership with Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, created the Vietnam War Certificate of Honor program for every Georgia veteran with honorable service during the Vietnam War.
The program is in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, and more than 20 veterans were present Thursday to accept the honor.
“We aim to achieve a goal that is both simple and elusive — to show our appreciation for the service and sacrifice of Vietnam veterans,” Evans said. “It is never the wrong time to say ‘thank you’ to those who have put their lives on the line for our country.”
More than 5,000 Georgians lost their lives in the war, and more than 8,000 were injured, according to Miller.
Miller never served in the military, which he said makes him all the more grateful to those who have and do.
“It is one of the greatest regrets of my life,” Miller said. “I hope that someday I will be able to make up for that a shortcoming, in my opinion, by serving my community and serving my fellow man.”
Miller and Evans said Vietnam veterans have not always been properly appreciated for their service. But Evans said he believes this nation has learned from that mistake.
“Today we treat those who serve with the respect and gratitude they are due,” he said. “As we remember those who are serving today, we must never forget those who have served in the past.”
Miller and Evans shook the hand of every veteran present Thursday, presenting each one with a personalized certificate, a Vietnam veteran pin, car decal, button and card.
“You are, each and every one of you, great Americans,” Miller said. “So thank you. Thank you very much.”
As retired Army Spc. E-5 David Nottingham accepted his certificate, he swallowed hard, turned to the room and said,
“Welcome home, brothers.”