Many people may not be aware that President Barack Obama one year ago proclaimed March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day.
But Douglas County remembered.
Thursday’s event before the steps of the Douglas County Courthouse was one day shy of the day 40 years ago when the last U.S. troops left Vietnam.
Not all came back, however. More than 58,000 were killed in action, including 1,584 from Georgia and 12 from Douglas County.
There were 228,000 Georgians serving in the military during the war in Vietnam.
Scott Hughes, assistant pastor at Douglasville First United Methodist Church, read the names of Douglas County’s 12 Vietnam veterans killed in action.
The 12 were Gene Thomas Bailey, Herbert Eugene Belcher, Leon G. Holton, Robert Gerald Hunter, Brian Edward Jay, Melvin Johnson, Thurlo McClure, Raymond Simpson, Robert Paul Tidwell, David Beavers Wood, Nathan Bedford Simmons and Johnny Delbert Swann. Their names are permanently engraved on a bronze plaque next to the Eternal Flame that rests as a memorial at the courthouse.
Of the 8.5 million American soldiers that served in the military from 1964 to 1973 in the Southeast Asia theater of operation, 300,000 were wounded.
Many of the men and women who returned from Vietnam, however, faced lingering after-effects of post traumatic stress disorder and effects of Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant used by the U.S. military in Vietnam which has been linked to a variety of diseases.
Ken Cochran of Douglasville has taken up the fight against the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans.
Cochran served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1972 and was stationed in Vietnam during 1971 to 1972.
Not only has he experienced the effects of Agent Orange, but said that two of his children suffered birth defects as a result of the chemical agent used in the jungles of Vietnam.
He said he was happy to see Vietnam veterans are beginning to get the support and recognition they deserve.
He also is proud Douglas County has made efforts to recognize the veterans.
“It’s great in a lot of ways, but we still have an emptiness in some people because it took so long to get any recognition,” Cochran said.
Commission Chairman Tom Worthan spoke in the foreground of an immense American flag that flanked the entrance to the courthouse.
“It is an honor to spend a few minutes today to celebrate the service of heroes who are here with us and heroes who gave their lives for our nation,” he said.
Worthan spoke about how American military leaders frequently use the word “calling” to describe their profession.
The Chapel Hill High School Navy Junior ROTC Color Guard, under the command of Capt. Ted McMurtrie, presented the colors, opening the event.
A program of patriotic and spiritual music was presented by the Lithia Springs High School band, under the leadership of D.J. McConnell, and the high school chorus, directed by Lauren Harper.
Veterans from all five military branches were honored in song and recognized for their military service.
The program concluded with the tying of yellow ribbons onto a dogwood planted in 2000 as a living memorial to Vietnam veterans.