Celebrating Our Deserving Vietnam War Veterans

November 11, 2022, We Honor Veterans

Celebrating Our Deserving Vietnam War Veterans

As part of our national Veteran’s Day celebration on November 11, Gilchrist’s volunteer team of military vets will conduct 15 hour-long programs at 15 long-term care facilities throughout the region, all of them featuring patriotic stories, remembrances, and music for all residents. Those who wore the uniforms of our armed forces will receive special recognition during the ceremonies. We have been doing this for several years, and we are delighted and honored to do so.  

Sadly, our veterans from the Vietnam War have not always received the recognition and support they deserve for their selfless service to our country.

Pleading for Recognition

I recall another Veteran’s Day, this one way back in 1978, when President Jimmy Carter pleaded all Americans to remember what he called the “ignored” veterans among us – those who served in Vietnam. Just a few years earlier, the returning men and women from the unpopular war waged in Vietnam faced a hostile reception.

Gazing at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on that long-ago Veteran’s Day, President Carter – a veteran himself – lamented the fact that the service of Vietnam War veterans had not been “adequately realized.” They “have been criticized and rebuffed because they answered their call of duty,” he said, adding that they were often more punished at home than they were threatened in combat. This failure, Carter stated, made unknown soldiers of America’s Vietnam War soldiers we should have known – and celebrated.

Meeting with Hostility

Nearly three million Americans served in the Vietnam War, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and, tragically more than 58,000 were killed while many more suffered wounds, some traumatic. For those who returned home, there were no ticker-tape parades to greet them. In fact, they were routinely met with a hostile reception.

One of Gilchrist’s lead veteran volunteers, William T. Hill, recalls coming home after three years in Vietnam proudly wearing his Army Sergeant uniform through the airport. “The reception,” he said, “was awful.” In response, he dodged into a restroom to change into civilian clothes.

Marine Sergeant James Sandoz, a Gilchrist veteran group volunteer and Purple Heart recipient from wounds suffered in Vietnam, said folks were downright cold. Jim remembers the first college class he attended after coming home. No one would sit near him. “They actually got up and moved when I sat down, and I got the silent treatment.”

Artillery Captain Donald Kyle, another dedicated Gilchrist Veterans volunteer and a Bronze Star recipient for valor, was targeted with perhaps the most stinging insult of all: “baby killer.” This is what a new colleague called him on his first day of his first civilian job following his service.

Art Grau, another veterans group team member, said: “We didn’t realize how many Americans blamed us for the war until we were greeted by a large group, no, make that a mob, behind wire fences on the tarmac shouting obscenities, several with their clothes drenched in red.” Art said he felt “intimidated and threatened” when people discovered he was a Vietnam War vet.   

Giving Thanks, at Last

Fortunately, the nation has taken important steps forward since that time on behalf of Vietnam veterans.

After President Carter’s 1978 plea for recognition of Vietnam veterans, a new Congressional memorial plaque was unveiled. The nation celebrates “those members of its armed forces who served honorably in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict,” the plaque states.

Shortly thereafter, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was erected in Washington, D.C. The iconic black granite walls are engraved with the names of American service members who died or remain missing in Vietnam.

And then, after years of pleading, in 2017, Vietnam Veteran’s Day was officially enacted by Congress with an annual observance date of March 29. Maryland was among the first to enact a Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran’s Day commemoration.  

We believe it’s never too late to thank Vietnam War veterans. They are as deserving of our gratitude today as they were during the days they served us at war a half-century ago. Gilchrist is proud to announce that we will hold our fifth welcome-home appreciation ceremony in March 2023.  

This blog was written and contributed by “We Honor Veterans” Volunteer, Ed Kaplan

To learn more about Gilchrist’s We Honor Veterans program, visit To support our work, visit

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