Bates: Time for Oregon to say 'welcome home' to Vietnam vets
Fifty years ago, nearly to the day, over 500,000 United States military personnel were deployed to Vietnam. The New Year of 1969 brought many of the same experiences of 1968. 1968 was the year of the greatest number of casualties during the Vietnam War. Almost 3 million warriors served in Vietnam. Thousands were from Oregon. All totaled, there were over 58,000 American troops who died in Vietnam; 710 of them were Oregonians.
These were the sons and daughters of the Greatest Generation. The Vietnam generation of warriors went to war and served their country well. Yet, when they returned from serving their nation, they did not get a "thank you," let alone a "welcome home."
The era of the Vietnam War was a tumultuous time. There was strife and discord. The Vietnam-era veterans were treated poorly; spit upon, verbally rebuked and on many occasions physically attacked, for wearing a military uniform and serving their country. During the ensuing decades, the Vietnam-era veterans, and their service to our country, were essentially ignored.
In our Oregon State Capitol building, you can find a memorial to the veterans of the Civil War. In our state capital city of Salem, on state properties, there are memorials honoring the Veterans of the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War and the Afghan- Iraqi wars.
Many Oregon communities have a local monument, memorial or park to honor their veterans and war dead. Some communities have honored their local Vietnam War heroes with separate Vietnam War memorials.
Yet, in our state capital city, there is not a statewide monument or memorial honoring our Vietnam War veterans. The states of California and Washington erected memorials on their capitol grounds to honor their Vietnam veterans and collectively say "welcome home." It is time for the state of Oregon to do the same.
Over the past two years, a group of Oregon residents have been working to that end. The Vietnam War Memorial Fund was founded as a non-profit charitable organization, established with the sole purpose of funding and building a Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds.
As a result of the efforts of this group, on Dec. 12, 2018, the Oregon House Interim Committee on Veterans and Emergency Preparedness voted to sponsor House Bill 2195, which will be introduced in the 2019 Legislative Assembly.
House Bill 2195 establishes a Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds and provides the necessary permissions for the expeditious completion thereof. In addition, it iterates that the memorial will be funded by donations from the private sector.
House Bill 2195 begins the process to enable the state of Oregon to collectively say "welcome home" to our Vietnam Veterans.
This bill must be passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate to be signed into law by the governor. You can help by telling your representative and senator to support HB 2195, the Vietnam War Memorial bill.
It is appropriate that a Vietnam War Memorial be placed on the grounds of the Oregon State Capitol. This will demonstrate our state's commitment and gratitude to our Vietnam-era veterans.
Let us honor and memorialize our Vietnam War-era veterans for generations to come.
It is time for the State of Oregon to say "welcome home."
For more information, go to the website of the Vietnam War Memorial Fund, the Fund for a Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon State Capitol Grounds: VietnamWarMemorialFund.org
Contributions can be made by credit card on the website or by sending a check or money order to: Vietnam War Memorial Fund, PO Box 1448, Boring, OR 97009.
Steve Bates is a life member of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America. He serves as chair of the Committee on Memorials and Remembrance and president of the Vietnam War Memorial Fund.
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