U.S. President Barack Obama has called the treatment Vietnam War veterans received after they returned home "a national shame" and asked that Americans use the 50th anniversary of the war to set the record straight.
Obama was speaking at a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., on Monday. The black granite is incised with the names of 58,282 service-members killed in the conflict.
"One of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam - most particularly, how we treated our troops who served there," Obama recalled.
The President called the treatment a national shame and a disgrace that should never have happened.
A central part of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War will be "to tell your story as it should have been told all along," Obama said. "It's another chance to set the record straight. That's one more way we keep perfecting our union - setting the record straight. And it starts today," Obama reminded.
History will honor the service of the Vietnam generation. Their stories will join those of veterans going back to the founding of the republic, the President said.
Combat in Vietnam was brutal: Battles in Hue and on Hamburger Hill and the A Shau Valley sparked heroism that often went unremarked in a nation bitterly divided by the war. And American POWs "wrote one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history," Obama said.
"All too often it's forgotten that you, our troops in Vietnam, won every major battle you fought in."
And with the war over, the Vietnam vets continued to serve. "So let us also tell a story of a generation that came home, and how - even though some Americans turned their back on you - you never turned your back on America," he said.
And they learned from the mistakes of the past. Those who stayed in uniform used their experience to rebuild the U.S. military "into the finest force that the world has ever known," Obama said.
Vietnam vets were the moving force behind the Post-9/11 GI Bill that is helping hundreds of thousands of today's veterans go to college and pursue their dreams, Obama said.
"Because you didn't let us forget, at our airports, our returning troops get off the airplane and you are there to shake their hands," he said. "Because of you, across America, communities have welcomed home our forces from Iraq. And when our troops return from Afghanistan, America will give this entire 9/11 generation the welcome home they deserve."
"This is the legacy of Vietnam, Obama said -- the story of a generation that did its job."
Vice-President Joe Biden also attended the ceremony.
by RTT Staff Writer
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