Looking back at Veterans Day 1969

On Nov. 11, 1969, Operation Fulton Square in the Quang Tri Province was in full force, with the assistance of the 1st Marine Division, 101st Airborne Division and the 5th Infantry Division.  This was one of twenty operations active throughout Vietnam. There were more than 500,000 U.S. Military personnel assigned to the Vietnam War Zone. 

Yes, Veterans Day 50 years ago was very different. In 1969, the Vietnam War was raging.

In fact, 1969 was the second most deadly year of the Vietnam Era, with 11,780 U.S. soldiers dying in action. All told, more than 58,000 of our troops died in Vietnam, 710 of them from Oregon.

Those who survived and returned home were never treated with respect or honor. Most of these dedicated soldiers never heard the words “thank you” or “welcome home.”

As a result, when it came to Veterans Day in 1969, and subsequent years, Vietnam Veterans tended not to participate. These warriors did their duty in service of our country, but were rebuked because of that unpopular war. 

Former Oregon legislator and Vietnam veteran Sal Esquivel stated, “We were not supported in the field, we were not supported by our government, we were not supported by the people and many of us were treated poorly when we came home.”

When you look around our capital city of Salem, you can find memorials built to honor the veterans of every war and conflict with the exception of Operation Desert Storm and the Vietnam War. Once again, there is evidence of the poor treatment of our Vietnam Veterans.

Oregon can do better! There are Oregonians who want everyone to remember our Vietnam Veterans.

A Vietnam War Memorial has been proposed on the capitol grounds south of the World War II Memorial.

 Over the past two years, dozens of volunteers have attended meetings and performed research. The end result of these efforts is a viable design.

The memorial will remember the Oregonians who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam.  It will honor the four Oregon families who lost two sons in that war.

In addition to historic accounts of the war, the design includes a memorial to the six Oregonians who died in Operation Desert Storm. 

Oregon saluted the Greatest Generation with a World War II Memorial. It’s time for Oregon to do the same for the Vietnam War Veterans.

The average age of our Vietnam Veterans is now past 70. We are slowly losing them.

Our goal is to honor them by Veterans Day, 2022. Will you join this effort?

Please send a check to Vietnam War Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1448, Boring, OR  97009, or donate by credit card through our secure website, found at www.vietnamwarmemorialfund.org.

On Veterans Day, we should thank all of our Veterans for their service — especially our Vietnam Veterans!


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