National Vietnam Veterans Day is March 29, but celebrations this year will look different because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The holiday, also known as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day,” is typically celebrated with in-person ceremonies and large gatherings such as dinners and reunions — many of which are not permitted under current social distancing guidelines. In total, the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration told Military Times there will be around 600 events to support the holiday running from March 22 to April 5.
This holiday has been celebrated since 1974, the first year then-President Richard Nixon selected the date for Vietnam Veterans Day. It was made a national holiday in 2017 after President Donald Trump signed into law that it would be celebrated annually.
Scaled-down in-person ceremonies
Despite most live events being cancelled this past year, limited in-person events to honor Vietnam veterans will still take place.
The DOD Vietnam War Commemoration Program Office will be holding a wreath-laying ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on March 29. Some cemeteries also plan to hold small wreath-laying ceremonies. At most events, guests will be invite-only to follow physical distancing restrictions.
Veteran centers, commissaries, VFW posts and other organizations will be having small ceremonies on or around March 29. Many of these will involve pinning ceremonies to present Vietnam veterans with commemorative lapel pins to honor their service. Some organizers have planned for keynote speakers, musical guests, flag presentations and more at their events. Websites for most of these events encourage masks and social-distancing for all attendees in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Larger virtual events
For veterans and their families who do not feel comfortable going to in-person events or who live in areas where there are none planned for this holiday, virtual events will remain an option for this year.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund will be holding a virtual commemoration on March 29 at 1:00 pm. The webcast will feature messages of thanks that people can submit through the website.
Veterans who are not able to attend a public lapel-pinning ceremony event can also request to have pins mailed directly to them from the Vietnam War Commemoration. All living U.S. veterans who served on active duty in any location for any period of time between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975 are eligible to receive one lapel pin, according to Kate Logan, strategic communications specialist at the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration.
Museums that offered exhibits about the Vietnam War, like the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, will remain closed indefinitely to the public because of the pandemic. Many of these museums are offering interested visitors the opportunity to explore their museum virtually on their websites.
Social media sites are also offering ways to show support for Vietnam Veterans. Facebook is allowing veteran users to frame their profile picture with the Vietnam War Veterans Day pin.
Vietnam Veterans Day history
Congress signed National Vietnam Veterans Day into law under the Vietnam War Veterans Act of 2017.
Before the day became permanent on the calendar, some states had already recognized either March 29 or March 30 as a day to celebrate Vietnam veterans. This law cleared up the debate between states over which day was the proper day to celebrate.
March 29 signifies the date the last American combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the day the last American POWs were returned to the U.S. in 1973.
This day, now etched onto the calendar by law, gives many Vietnam veterans the chance to receive the recognition they did not experience when they first arrived home.