By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District
The day we honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces is Nov. 11, Veterans Day. We owe our freedoms to the millions of Americans past and present who have given sacrificially in service to keep us safe.
Of all the wars and conflicts the United States has been involved in the past 200-plus years, the Vietnam War is perhaps the one that has produced the most controversy. Many veterans of that war were misunderstood at the time, and many of them did not receive the recognition they deserved.
I was blessed to be able to personally say thank you to Vietnam veterans at a special service on the Capitol lawn last month.
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.
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.
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 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.
Michigan Says Thanks was more than I hoped it would be. The turnout was fantastic, and giving Vietnam veterans and their families due honor and respect was long overdue.
May we continue to remember the sacrifice that Vietnam veterans and their families and all other American veterans have made for us.
Have a safe Veterans Day.
This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator 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.