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VIDEO: Vietnam vets pay tribute to comrades
Hinesville Police Maj. Tracey Howard
Hinesville Police Maj. Tracey Howard salutes the flag during Wednesday’s Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Observance at Bryant Commons. Photo by Lewis Levine

Veterans of the Vietnam War gathered Wednesday morning at Bryant Commons to remember the 50-year anniversary.

The last U.S. combat troops left South Vietnam on March 29, 1973, and the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter held a Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Observance to help mark the 50 years since the U.S. ended its combat role in Vietnam.

“We have this day to celebrate and recognize all Vietnam veterans,” said Dennis Fitzgerald, president of VVA Chapter 789, “those who were in country and those outside the area still helping to support everybody who was in country.”

Fitzgerald said the memories of the Vietnam War and those who fought in it are fading away, similar to how World War I, World War II and the Korean War are being forgotten.

“We have to remember our history, because if we don’t remember our history,” he said, “it’s going to come back and we’re going to suffer. We have to keep it in the minds of our youth so it doesn’t happen again.”

From 1961–75, when South Vietnam fell to North Vietnamese forces, more than 2.7 million Americans served in the Vietnam War. More than 58,000 American service members were killed in the war.

Many of those who did come home were either ignored or accosted upon their return. For Fitzgerald and his fellow veterans, they are looked upon differently now than they were decades ago.

And many local Vietnam vets have made it their duty to see the soldiers of the current armed forces are greeted and thanked for their service upon their return home.

“Fifty years later, every time we around, somebody is welcoming us,” Fitzgerald said. “And we as Vietnam veterans made a promise to America and all veterans that whenever a unit comes back from an overseas assignment or a combat assignment or even from the National Training Center, we welcome them home. We’re there to say, ‘hey, thank you for a job well done,’ the welcome home we never got.”

Fitzgerald said the those welcomes today’s service members get upon returning home are important.

“It gives a sense of satisfaction — hey, somebody recognizes I did a job I might not have wanted to do, but I did it for my country,” he said.

Watch the VIDEO below

VIDEO: Vietnam Vets remembered

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Vietnam vet
Maj. Luis Carreras addresses his fellow Vietnam War veterans during Wednesday’s Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day Observance at Bryant Commons. Photo by Lewis Levine
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