Americans are flocking to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., from May 11-13 to thank Vietnam veterans for their service and sacrifices 50 years ago.
The national “Welcome Home” event was planned by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, a congressionally-authorized organization launched by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to honor and pay tribute to Vietnam-era veterans, prisoners of war, and MIAs, as well as their families.
The opening ceremony begins May 11 at 11 a.m. with a flyover of four Vietnam-era Huey helicopters and a ribbon-cutting of “Camp Legacy,” on the west end of the Mall, where attendees can explore static helicopters and vehicles, military museum displays, and more than 40 exhibit tents.
The three-day event will also feature drill teams and service bands playing live music, the U.S. Army Golden Knights conducting daily precision parachute drops, and Vietnam veterans gathering at “rally points” to honor fellow service members who remain unaccounted for.
Eight panel discussions will also take place, focusing on different historical aspects of the war. Topics range from the ongoing mission of accounting for MIAs to the legacy of servicewomen and journalists during the Vietnam War. The full schedule of events can be found here.
One panel, organized by the Air & Space Forces Association (AFA), is hosting six Vietnam veterans, all retired four-star officers from different military branches: former Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman; Army Gen. Dennis J. Reimer; Marine Corps Gen. John J. Sheehan; Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen; National Guard Gen. Craig R. McKinley; and Coast Guard Adm. James M. Loy.
“Some 2.7 million Americans veterans served in Vietnam. Many returned home wounded, physically and emotionally, only to face further injury and insult from the very citizens they had served,” said AFA President & CEO retired Lt. Gen. Bruce “Orville” Wright. “The observance and ‘Welcome Home’ now may be 50 years late, but it is nonetheless welcome and deserved. Together, we as a people owe our veterans a debt of gratitude. As Americans we must all recognize the sacrifices made by those who serve their nation. The men and women who served in Vietnam—and those who did not make it home—must be recognized as the true heroes that they are.”
The commemoration ends the afternoon of May 13 with a crowning “Welcome Home” concert. The full-stage celebration will pay tribute to all Vietnam veterans and families with live music and multimedia entertainment from Broadway star Jon Hacker, TV star Lauren B. Martin, The New York Tenors, country music performer and U.S. Naval Academy graduate Chris Nurthen, and The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own.”
The commemorative event is open to the public, but those who cannot attend in person can livestream the May 11 opening ceremony and May 13 “Welcome Home” celebration on the organization’s Facebook page.