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NEWS | March 31, 2022

JBSA honors Vietnam Veterans at March 29 ceremony

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio leaders honored the service and sacrifice of Vietnam War veterans and their families during a National Vietnam War Veterans Day ceremony at the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Exchange March 29.

The ceremony was hosted by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service and included remarks by 502nd Air Base Wing and JBSA commander Brig. Gen. Caroline M. Miller and Antonio Porter, the mid-central region vice president for the Exchange.

Each of the 67 veterans at the ceremony was presented with a commemorative Vietnam Veteran lapel pin, which was provided in partnership with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration and the Exchange.

Gene Marin, who served in Vietnam in 1971, said he was thankful for the appreciation shown to him and his fellow Vietnam veterans at the ceremony.

“Anytime someone wants to thank us, it’s appreciated because we know what happened many, many years ago when we came back. We were basically given the guilt trip and shamed,” Marin said. “I think they did a good job with the ceremony and we appreciate it.”

Miller told the veterans she was inspired to go into the service because of her father and uncle, who both served in Vietnam.

Unfortunately, Miller said, her uncle had a tough time after coming home from Vietnam because he had post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and until his death, never spoke about what he saw or experienced while serving in Vietnam.

“He served his country and I honor him today,” Miller said.

Miller spoke about the significance of observing National Vietnam War Veterans Day March 29. It was on that day in 1973 the U.S. pulled all of its combat troops out of Vietnam and 591 U.S. prisoners of war returned home.

Miller said the ceremony was also to recognize those service members who have lost their lives serving their country. Of the 2.7 million service members who fought in Vietnam, 58,000 were killed, with 308,000 either wounded or killed.

“We take this day to pause and say thank you,” Miller said. “Thank you for leading the way. Thank you for allowing your service so now we too can serve this generation and beyond.”

Porter said the Exchange provided the commemorative lapel pins as a token of thanks to the Vietnam veterans for their service, valor and sacrifice.

“Many of our Vietnam veterans did not receive the gratitude and recognition they deserved,” Porter said. “The American public did not understand their service and sacrifice. Today, we pay proper respect to these heroes.”

Al Johnson, who served as an Air Force radar and board operator in Vietnam from 1970-72, said the remarks given by Miller and Porter were well-spoken.

“It’s nice to be recognized properly,” Johnson said. “We don’t need to be heroes. Thank you for your service is plenty and good enough as opposed to what we got when we came back.”

At end of the ceremony, Miller, JBSA Command Chief Master Sgt. Casey Boomershine, and Col. Shane Cuellar, 502nd Force Support Group commander, took turns pinning the lapel pins on the veterans who lined up to receive them.

The commemorative pin each of the veterans received have the words “Vietnam War Veteran” engraved in a circle, with laurel wreaths, around an image of an eagle. Behind the eagle are the red and white stripes of the American flag with six stars representing the number of countries, including the U.S., who fought alongside the South Vietnamese.

On the back of the pin, engraved is the message “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

The JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Exchange was among 150 Exchanges worldwide that hosted ceremonies honoring all veterans who served from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of location. The Exchange has partnered with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration in 500 plus commemorative events honoring more than 60,000 Vietnam veterans.