USAG DAEGU, South Korea -- Commemoration is a crucial element of Army life and in the case of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, United States Army Garrison Daegu and the Area IV Republic of Korea Army Support Group rallied to recognize, honor and thank the U.S. and Korean veterans who fought to defend their countries and freedoms against the communist threat. It was a tribute to those lost and an open show of respect for the survivors and families whose contributions cannot be forgotten. The Vietnam War was a conflict in which many young American Soldiers and their allies fought, many making the ultimate sacrifice while others returned home to face challenges unseen and unrecognized. The Republic of Korea was by far the most committed foreign ally, sending more than 300,000 troops and giving abundant support in their alliance with the U.S.
This year marks the official observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. During the Vietnam War Commemoration Week, USAG Daegu prepared several events to recognize the service, valor, and sacrifices of Vietnam veterans. As a homage to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, the Camp Henry 'Fit-To-Win' fitness center was renamed 'The Wall', Nov. 2. Vietnam veterans from the U.S. and Korea were recognized in a Pinning Ceremony, Nov. 3, at the Camp Henry Theater, and lastly, the garrison hosted a Retiree Appreciation Day event, Nov. 4, at the Camp Walker Evergreen Club.
The Vietnam Veterans Pinning Ceremony, the main event of the Vietnam War Commemoration Week, kicked off with an entrance of U.S. and Korean veterans at the Camp Henry Theater, greeted by cheers from Soldiers and civilians attending the ceremony.
"I know for myself as a 34-year veteran of the United States Army that veterans like those who are here today brought Soldier values to me at an early age," said retired U.S. Army Col. William C. Butcher, USAG Daegu Deputy to the Garrison Commander. "Men like my father, a veteran of World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam, as well as countless non-commissioned officers and officers I encountered in my early career in the Army, and whom are in front of me, I can never say thank you enough for teaching me the value of being a Soldier."
"Vietnam War veterans here are heroes who fought for freedom in a faraway country without any hesitation when they were called by their nations," said Area IV ROK Army Support Group Commander Lt. Col. Jung, Hyeon-woong. "The U.S. and Republic of Korea fought together as a blood alliance during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and I never doubt that this will continue as well in the future."
"I hope that today becomes the day that makes the veterans here ease their sufferings and mental difficulties from the past and take pride for their great service," added Jung.
Following the remarks, Veterans and attendees watched a short commemoration video made by the Garrison Visual Information Center. The video spotlighted the forgotten Soldiers who received little recognition for their service following the war. Times have changed and Vietnam veterans are finally getting the respect they should have received long ago.
"My father was a Vietnam War Veteran who served as an infantryman in the ROK Army Tiger Division," said An, Yong Taek, USAG Daegu Safety Specialist. "I remember in the video when a Soldier is giving his last farewell to his family before riding the train. This is the exact same story like my father's. It really made me misty-eyed and I thank the garrison for organizing such a meaningful event."
'K-Music Envoy', a Korean traditional music performance coordinated by the Garrison and ROK Army Support Group, took place during the pinning event out of respect for the veterans. This short concert highlighted the essence of Korea's unique traditional colors and artistic beauty by performing World Intangible Cultural Heritage traditional arts, including Bunari, Jindo drum dance, Pansori, and Arirang.
"It was overall a well-put-together event that really surprised me," said Jesse Rookard, Vietnam War veteran, once a Combat Production Specialist, who attended the ceremony. "I wasn't looking forward to it at all, but with all the work they put into it, especially the musical performance, it was excellent. I am really honored."
Following the performance, all 12 U.S. and eight Korean veterans received a certificate of recognition and a commemoration pin for their service to the Armed Forces of the United States during the Vietnam War. Veterans were then invited to the Camp Henry Sustainer Grill for a special meal and participated in a cake cutting ceremony with the leadership. They enjoyed lunch with the enlisted Soldiers and shared their experiences in the military and life afterwards, building a true bond between the old and new members of the Army.
"The connection was real," said Spc. Deandre Parker, HHC, USAG Daegu. "Not only did they give words of wisdom learned by experience, but we as junior Soldiers had a chance to really show our utmost respect, which was quite meaningful."
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, nine million Americans served on Active Duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, and the Republic of Korea sent more than 300,000 troops to Vietnam from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force which was the second largest in size only to the U.S. military force.