This week I was honored to sponsor an event on the Capitol lawn paying tribute to veterans of the Vietnam War era.
The “Michigan Says Thanks” event highlighted the service of the armed forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of federal agencies and Vietnam War era families, and it paid tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the war.
The ceremony was more than I hoped for. The turnout was fantastic, and we spent time thanking and honoring veterans of the Vietnam War era and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States.
Giving Vietnam veterans and their families due honor and respect was long overdue. Michigan’s Vietnam veterans, whether drafted or enlisted, served our country with honor. Tragically, too many returned home with little thanks for their service and not much help transitioning to civilian life.
More than nine million Americans served our country during the Vietnam War era. Michigan Says Thanks focused on the more than 237,000 Vietnam era Michiganders who reside here today.
Twenty-five historical stations were displayed on the north and south lawns for event attendees to visit. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) hosted one of the historical stations. An MVAA service officer answered questions and made follow-up appointments regarding benefits such as disability compensation, pension, aid and attendance, and dependent indemnity compensation.
The major sponsors of Michigan Says Thanks were Vietnam Veterans of America Detroit Chapter 9, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Domino’s Pizza, and Breitung Township Traveling Memorial.
A lapel-pinning ceremony was held throughout the event. Volunteers from the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration fastened lapel pins on veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, between Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975, regardless of location.
The symbolism attached to the Vietnam veteran lapel pins is significant. The Commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period. All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.
We can never fully repay those who served us, but we were able to say thank you at this event. May we continue to remember the sacrifice veterans and their families have made for us.
Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.