By MC1 Omari K. Way, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs
During yesterday’s Pearl Harbor Colors ceremony, Navy Region Hawaii, in conjunction with National Park Service, honored the flag and paid tribute to American service members who were on duty during the Vietnam War.
Set at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center, the ceremony featured the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, Joint Base Honors and Ceremonies Guard, an official observance of “morning colors” and a timely reminder.
“This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and today, in recognition of that commemoration, we are here to honor the service and sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans and to say ‘thank you’ for that service,” said Lt. Damall Martin, event organizer, during his opening remarks.
Robert “Tim” Guard, a Vietnam veteran, was the ceremony’s guest speaker. Guard is chairman of the board for the USS Missouri Memorial Association and is a recipient of the Navy Meritorious Public Service Citation.
A former Navy lieutenant, Guard talked to the audience about the legacy of the Vietnam War. His awards include a Bronze Star, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Legion of Merit.
Guard delivered a speech full of lessons learned. “Korea may be remembered as the Forgotten War, but Vietnam could be known as the War of the Forgotten Veteran,” he said.
“We Vietnam veterans came home to a nation of fellow Americans who hardly seemed to care that we had ever left,” Guard said. “People were apathetic at best, derisive at their worst.”
Guard also spoke of the problems faced by many of the Vietnam War veterans living today. As of May, the Veteran Administration reports that number to be more than 153,000.
“The battle “Vietnam” continues today for many veterans as they cope with unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, PTSD, drugs and inadequate VA medical care. Estimates run as high as 60 percent of all Vietnam veterans who are afflicted today by one or more of these conditions,” Guard said.
But Guard soon shifted his focus toward gratitude and hope and noted the difference in how veterans of recent conflicts are treated.
“The lasting lesson learned from the experience of Vietnam is that veterans [today] return home, greeted by well-deserved tributes for their service to America,” he said.
Other Vietnam vets who were part of the 1,500 plus audience agreed with Guard’s observation.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Ben Acohido, former Hawaii State VFW commander, said he is thankful that “regardless of politics, troops are supported.”
Guard ended his address speaking to the many Vietnam veterans who came to honor the flag. He said, “Vietnam veterans, welcome home.”
The bandmaster sounded attention to colors. The color guard paraded the colors.
The next Pearl Harbor Colors ceremony is scheduled for July 16 and will highlight Navy youth outreach programs.
Visit the Pearl Harbor Colors Ceremony webpage to learn more.