History Wars Vietnam War

Why we honor Vietnam Veterans Day

Jessica Evans Avatar
National Vietnam Veterans Day
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christian Ayers.

Each year on March 29, we observe National Vietnam Veterans Day. This day honors those who fought in the Vietnam War. When they returned from Vietnam, they were met with hatred, resentment and judgment, solely for doing their jobs. Now, we treat them as we always should have: with honor and respect.

It’s also a day to reflect on the lessons learned from the Vietnam War. In this way, we can show our resolve as Americans so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of that conflict.

When was National Vietnam Veterans Day established?

A presidential proclamation established National Vietnam Veterans Day in 2000 on the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. On March 29, 1973, the last remaining U.S. service members left Vietnam. So it’s only fitting that this date is observed.

Impact on American Military

During the conflict, more than 58,000 American service members died. An additional 304,000 were wounded. In addition, another 1,626 service members died from causes such as accidents, disease and suicide. Wondering what it was like? Here are 9 Vietnam War movies that get it right.

National Vietnam Veterans Day veterans
U.S. Marine Corps Col. Michael L. Brooks, base commander, Marine Corps Base Quantico, shakes hands with retired Gunnery Sgt. Clarence Cosby at the commissary on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, March 29, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Eric Huynh)

How many people served during the war?

More than 8 million Americans served in uniform during the conflict. Of those service members, 7 million were alive as of 2018. The vast majority are older than 65 years old. Many live with physical and psychological scars from their time in combat. An estimated 500,000 have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Over a quarter million have an Agent Orange-related illness. That’s one of the many reasons why the National Vietnam Veterans Day is such an important day.

What happened in Vietnam during the war?

The war also took a heavy toll on the Vietnamese people. Estimates of Vietnamese soldiers killed vary widely. At least 250,000 North Vietnamese soldiers and 1 million South Vietnamese soldiers died. Moreover, an estimated 2 million Vietnamese civilians lost their lives.

Why did America use the draft?

We used the increase the size of the military. This system used a lottery to select those to deploy. Somewhere between 2.7 and 3.5 million men were drafted during the war. Of those, about half a million deployed. DoD accounts reflect that over two million Americans served. So National Vietnam Veterans Day is a day to reflect on all those who served – both willingly and unwillingly.

National Vietnam Veterans Day memorial
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial honors the sacrifices and dedication of the U.S. service members who served during the Vietnam War. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christian Ayers)

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial commemorates the lives of American service members who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. Two black granite walls list the names of all 58,318 who died.

The first wall lists the names of service members who died in service but whose bodies were not recovered or identified. The second wall is inscribed with the names of service members who were killed in action or died due to their injuries. In addition to the inscriptions, two statues at the memorial depict soldiers from different branches of the military; one statue is of an army infantryman, and the other is of a navy corpsman treating a wounded marine.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the most visited monuments in Washington, D.C., with over four million people visiting each year. Here are 24 things you should know before your visit.

On National Vietnam Veterans Day, we remember all those who served during one of America’s most controversial wars. We honor their service and sacrifice and reaffirm our commitment as a nation not to repeat the mistakes of that conflict. We also remember the millions of Vietnamese civilians who lost their lives during a war that ravaged their country for over a decade.

Want to find out more? Here are 17 wild facts about the Vietnam War.