By Brooke Oleen Tieperman
Here and now, isolation is a real thing. Or at least some of us understand the concept better. It hits deep, those feelings.
Solitude sets in and becomes our new reality. We learn to social distance. And we dream of brighter days.
A majority of us will hole up away from the rest of the world in a sense. And begin to crave and hold onto human connections still within our reach—6 feet and beyond, even virtually.
Forty-five years ago next month, the Vietnam War officially ended. It spanned almost 20 years from Nov. 1, 1955, to April 30, 1975.
Nine million Americans served during the era, 3 million, including my dad, Kent Oleen, in and around Vietnam. More than 58,000 U.S. servicemen and women made the ultimate sacrifice or remain missing there.
In 1973, the U.S. ceased direct involvement. Shunned and misunderstood, Vietnam veterans more than proved themselves protectors in the U.S. and abroad. Defenders of freedom in the formidable struggle of liberty and justice for all.
These vets had hearts and sights set on patriotism, something bigger than themselves. Following the call, they stepped forward for war namely in peace. Making them instant leaders, some at the age of 17.
Crossing oceans and nations where divisions prominently exist, the crisis that unfolded for Vietnam was collectively real to the world. For South Vietnam, the U.S. military and a handful of allied forces with boldness to break the infiltration and bonds of Communism, the cause was worthy.
The crisis for these commanders of freedom and their families must have been measured by bouts of seclusion and hints of hope, hitting each distinctively. Case by case, coping how they could. Some still.
State legislatures have clearly shown themselves some of the strongest supporters in formally recognizing Vietnam veterans. Forty-seven states and Puerto Rico since 2012 have enacted legislation and adopted resolutions to observe a Vietnam Veterans Day.
Our nation then collectively came together with the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act signed into law in 2017, designating March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
Although the outcome of the Vietnam War wasn’t what we’d call victorious, many have come to recognize and better understand what sacrifice takes. And alternatively, how those actions can bring us closer. As we listen, lead and relationship at all levels in some of the toughest ways, during the toughest times.
While we bunker down, reaching out, making a difference for others and offering that tailored support can be a constant tug. It should be. Realizing not everyone’s got equal footing, it takes initiative – a hard press measured with a soft touch on the daily.
Let’s learn from history and set a new trajectory. Let’s recognize the survivors and the families of the fallen who’ve weathered and withstood crisis, the lasting impacts of the Vietnam War and others
Veterans can serve as our guides during desperate times. The giving and growing, flowing both ways. Trying to relate to differences and celebrating those underlying commonalities should be what we shoot for with interaction.
Perhaps we’ll get a better glimpse of where we’ll be in the days ahead, shedding light on our shared future. Until that time comes, let’s make sure on March 29 and through this week, we actively honor our Vietnam Veterans.
A sincere virtual hug and thank you to all Vietnam veterans and families today from Brooke, Jim Reed, Jon Jukuri, Jen Schultz, Gretchenn DuBois and Michael Quillen, who staff to the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.
NCSL's Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs affords states the opportunity to raise and share policy to support the U.S. Military, veterans, servicemembers and their families. Forty-four active state legislators and legislative staff representing 22 states guided by co-chairs Representatives Tina Orwall (D-Wash.) and Dean Dohrman (R-Mo.) serve to make a difference. The task force will come together the week of Aug. 9, 2020, as part of the NCSL Legislative Summit in Indianapolis. Join us there!
For more on Vietnam Veterans Day recognitions:
Brooke Oleen Tieperman staffs the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs, supports NCSL’s Environment, Energy and Transportation program – including tribal energy, and serves as the NCSL state liaison to Missouri.