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Facts to consider as we observe Vietnam Veterans Day

The Vietnam Service Medal.

The Vietnam Service Medal.

KINGMAN - Americans from across our great nation will pay homage on Vietnam Veterans Day March 29, to those proud citizens who served during the Vietnam Conflict and to those who paid the ultimate price.

Many do not realize that the American government's participation in Vietnam began long before the actual Vietnam Conflict began.

The first American military death in Vietnam occurred on Sept. 26, 1945, during the unrest in Saigon when Office of Strategic Services officer Lieutenant Colonel A. Peter Dewey was killed by Viet Minh guerrillas who mistook him for a French officer. Before his death, Dewey had filed a report on the deepening crisis in Vietnam, stating his opinion that the U.S. "ought to clear out of Southeast Asia."

The U.S.'s participation in Vietnam escalated on July 26, 1950, when President Harry Truman authorized $15 million in military aid to the French. American military advisors accompanied the flow of U.S. tanks, planes, artillery and other supplies to Vietnam. Over the next four years, the U.S. spent $3 billion on the French war and by 1954 provided 80 percent of all war supplies used by the French.

Former Allied commander in Europe during WWII and five-star Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as the 34th U.S. President on Jan. 20, 1953, and that's when U.S. military aid greatly increased to the French in Vietnam to prevent a Communist victory. U.S. military advisors continued to accompany American supplies sent to Vietnam.

To justify America's financial commitment, Eisenhower cited a "Domino Theory" in which a Communist victory in Vietnam would result in surrounding countries falling one after another like a "falling row of dominoes." The Domino Theory was used by a succession of presidents and their advisors to justify ever-deepening U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

According to government records, our country's official involvement in Vietnam Conflict lasted 5,569 days (1960-1975) and it's estimated the average age of our military personnel serving in Vietnam was only 22.

Other statistics not normally known by all Americans include:

• More than 2,709,918 Americans served during the Vietnam Conflict;

• It is estimated that only one third of all military personnel who served in the Vietnam Conflict (less than 700,000) are alive today and of those, the number of Vietnam veterans currently living is rapidly diminishing;

• The youngest American Vietnam veteran's age would be about 56 years old now;

• There were originally 58,236 American killed in action (KIA), including 11,465 teenagers, but those numbers have recently been changed to 58,267;

• There were 621 people from Arizona who were killed in action;

• One out of every 11 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty, with 303,644 wounded in action;

• It is estimated that more than 1,800 American service members are still designated as missing in action in Vietnam;

• At the peak of the Vietnam Conflict that was never officially designated as a war, 543,000 troops were serving there at one period of time.

The youngest U.S. serviceman to be killed in action during the Vietnam Conflict was Private First Class Dan Bullock. He joined the Marines at age 14 by altering his birth certificate and graduated from boot camp on December 10, 1968. Bullock died from enemy small arms fire at Hoa Combat Base in Quang Nam Province June 7, 1969, at the age of 15.

According to a Presidential Proclamation designating Vietnam Veterans Day as March 29, President Barrack Obama said, "The Vietnam War is a story of service members of different backgrounds, colors, and creeds who came together to complete a daunting mission. It is a story of Americans from every corner of our nation who left the warmth of family to serve the country they loved. It is a story of patriots who braved the line of fire, who cast themselves into harm's way to save a friend, who fought hour after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear. From Ia Drang to Hue, they won every major battle of the war and upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces."

Vietnam Veterans Day has been designated by the federal government as March 29 and coincides with March 29, 1973, the day the United States Armed Forces completed the withdrawal of the combat units and combat support units from South Vietnam.

In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in the District of Columbia to commemorate those 58,267 members of the United States armed forces who were either KIA or were declared missing in action in Vietnam.

"Some city officials and various veterans organizations approached me and asked that I introduce a bill in the state legislature to designate Vietnam Veterans Day in Arizona as March 30," said Arizona State Representative Sonny Borrelli. "I told them that I wouldn't do it as long as the National day of celebration is March 29."

March 29 was designated by President Barrack Obama as Vietnam Veterans Day. We as Americans who enjoy freedom must stop to remember those proud servicemen and women who served our country within the boundaries of Vietnam and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Citizens across our great nation will show homage on Vietnam Veterans Day for those who served and for those who also paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam Conflict.

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