Vietnam vets honored with pinning at Post Exchange

Published 11:27 am Friday, April 14, 2023

By Karen Sampson | Public Affairs Office

Vietnam War veterans were honored for their service and sacrifices during a pinning ceremony hosted by the Fort Polk Army and Air Force Exchange Service on National Vietnam Veterans Day March 29.

March 29 marked the day the last American troops departed Vietnam in 1973 and the day Hanoi freed the remaining prisoners of war. The observance properly honors and welcomes home the millions of veterans who returned from the Vietnam War.

About 2.7 million Americans served in the Vietnam War, according to guest speaker Mark Leslie, directorate of plans, training, mobilization and security director.

In addition, more than 58,000 service members were killed, 304,000 wounded and 1,500 are still missing in action, Leslie explained.

“We are privileged to have some of those Americans present,” Leslie said. “Those losses are the steep price of war, and no one knows this better than the veterans in this audience.”

Some of these veteran warriors forged the history of Fort Polk and its training environment.

During the Vietnam War, Fort Polk was known as the “Home of the Infantryman.” It served as the largest infantry training center in the country. A Fort Polk training area known as Tiger Land mimicked jungle terrain and offered real-world driven combat circumstances soldiers would face in Vietnam’s operational theater.

Although the Vietnam War turned into a long conflict and the human costs were harsh for all involved, veterans shared the lessons they learned when they returned to the United States.

“The lessons taught were the basics of combat in the worst conditions and circumstances,” Leslie said.

He explained the veterans’ experiences in conflict in places such as Plieku, Hamburger Hill, Cau Mau, the Mekong Delta and countless others were not in vain.

“Today’s troops owe you all a mountain of gratitude,” Leslie said. “Nothing is more valuable to our troops than learning survival in the crucible of combat. This country, our Army and this installation are grateful for your service and sacrifice.”

Lisa Skinner, AAFES retail point of sales manager, attended the event. Her dad is a Vietnam veteran.

“My dad couldn’t be here today, but the event was important to me because it recognized his service,” Skinner said. “I think it would make him feel appreciated.”

The veterans can and do attend these events.

“I think they really appreciate the effort to recognize the struggles and hardships they had to deal with during and after the war,” Skinner said.

She said she’s glad AAFES hosts events like the pinning ceremony because they show Vietnam veterans the military community cares and continues to acknowledge their service.