Recognizing the valor of vets on National Vietnam Veterans Day
Across Northeast Michigan, in the rear of numerous closets and in storage chests are uniforms and relics from the Vietnam War.
In 1955, the war began as a regional conflict. By the early 1960s, the U.S. entered the war and exited on April 30, 1975.
The war soon became a major schism within America. Marches for and against the military action boomed across the nation. Families and friends became divided.
Before my mother passed, she informed me that she and my father wanted to send me to Canada, avoiding the then-active military draft. I opted to pursue my graduate degree and enlisted in the U.S. Navy through a delay program.
During the Vietnam War era, 9 million Americans served, with 2.7 million directly in Vietnam.
The war had 2,651 Michiganders perish, with thousands returning with physical injuries and mental challenges. Michigan had 1,253 military members missing in action, including from Northeast Michigan.
Over 2,500 military members served as prisoners of war.
For Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties, 22 military members perished. Numerous plaques and monuments across Northeast Michigan mark their sacrifice, along with veterans from other wars.
In Lansing, near the Hall of Justice complex (at Ottawa and Allegan streets), stands the Michigan Vietnam Veterans Memorial, paying tribute to those who served, perished, or were a POW.
In Washington, near the Lincoln Memorial, stands “The Wall,” reflecting the names of 58,156 American military members who lost their lives in the war. I have visited numerous times to pay homage. It is difficult to not shed tears.
Veterans Administration statistics note there are 6.4 million Vietnam-era veterans living across our nation. By 2025, in Michigan, that population is projected to be slightly over 155,000.
Decades after the war ended, through the leadership of many organizations and people — including Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump and Congress, National Vietnam Veterans Day was signed into law to be recognized each March 29.
During the 1960s and well into the 1970s, the war placed an ugly, sad, and challenging shadow across the United States.
Research from the Vietnam Veterans of America reveals 87% of the nation’s population now view Vietnam veterans with high esteem.
My naval uniforms are tucked away in my closet. My military ribbons and medals are framed and hung near my desk.
As we recognize the valor and sacrifice of Vietnam-era men and women veterans, should you have a family member or friend who served, render them a hand salute, thank them, and even toss in a hug.
Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the navy. He grew up in Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit.