This week’s Borne the Battle episode features Army Veteran Major General Peter Aylward (Ret.). He discusses his military career, mentors, how he became the national director of the Vietnam War Commemoration and how the program adapted its events during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 29, 2021, National Vietnam War Veterans Day will be celebrating its 4th anniversary. The commemoration was authorized by Congress and established by the Department of Defense to reach out and provide a long overdue thank you to Vietnam Veterans who did not receive a proper welcome after they returned home.

Today, there are over 6.2 million living Vietnam Era Veterans who earned our nation’s gratitude. Maj. Gen. Aylward breaks down the history and mission of the program and how others can contribute and become a Vietnam 50th War Commemorative partner.

The commemoration gives a lapel pin to every living Vietnam Era Veteran, as well as their next of kin. The pin is a token of appreciation to all who served and sacrificed for their country. So far, the program has reached and recognized over 3 million Vietnam Veterans.

Lastly, Aylward, talks about how the commemoration provides a sense of healing and reconciliation to all Vietnam Era Veterans and how the commemoration measures success.


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Michaela Yesis is a podcast volunteer with VA’s Digital Media Engagement Team. She recently graduated from George Mason University with a BA in English.

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13 Comments

  1. Michael D Coy March 30, 2021 at 5:44 am

    Second time, as a Kentucky Deplorable Homeless White Supremacist Vietnam veteran like many American Soldiers, we get to go to our graves without our United States Military Retirement we earned. My last duty station at Ft McPherson, Atlanta, Ga they kicked 7 good soldiers (including me, SSG Coy) out of the military illegally. I found my entire U. S. .Military Government Official Documents in a twisted green file cabinet ready to be destroyed. Also they erased my entire data that I was stationed at Ft McPherson. Kentucky Leaders with the board of Corrections say the will NEVER let solid evidence out weigh false accusations, bullying, tampering with Government Official Documents after they were signed. Post SGM Holden told me “SSG Coy, I’m going to ruin your career. He ordered SP4 Phillips change lower grades on my Evaluation Report. GS11 McReynolds snatched my DD Form 214 out of my hand went to his office white out original code replaced with a code so I couldn’t reenlist. After I was honored from the first board Company Commander did NOT remove the flag until months later. When they came up with a new reason to kick me out of the military. If the flag was lifted, post Commander Cordell stated for me to be transferred immediately for the better of the soldier and the United States Army. NOT! They had to discard me before Aug 1988 because I was number 2 on the promotion board to SFC. Only 6 more months for my retirement in Feb. I put in paper work 3 times to be transferred to Berlin, Germany to be with my German wife. I was a prisoner in my own country. They claim my job Performance was low. If my job performance was low, why did I have over 19 yeas & 6 months put in? SGG Collins put out overweight, she wasn’t. SGT Dunmore when she received her copy of her board proceedings, she ran to me crying on my shoulder because each page of her board proceedings was written in shorthand. The leaders at Ft McPherson let LT Ottinger write my last Evaluation Report. Regulations states I have to be working with this supervisor. I never worked one day for LT Ottinger. MSG Buck & Mrs. Mary Lou Smith was my last supervisors. Never dreamed my country would turn their backs on so many. Tell me again, “We leave no soldier behind.” “Be all you can be.” Soldiers have to abide by United States Army Regulations. However Board of Corrects say Leaders at Ft McPherson don’t have to abide by United States Army Regulations. I put in paper work in for Agent Orange around 1990, I got it Feb 2017. Mom said if I told 10 strangers what happened they’d laugh in my face. Kentucky leaders & Board of Corrects could care less. They took my character & career, I won’t let them have it all. My book, should be, “EVEN HEAVEN CRIES FOR US!”

  2. George Wayne Quick March 26, 2021 at 7:10 am

    over 5 years ago I could not walk (Transverse Myelitis) & a nurse got me into VA

    They saved my life

    Give me your complete story

    Wayne

  3. Bonnie Barnhill March 20, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    It’s wonderful what’s being fulfilled here. I’m wondering how there are 3 million Vietnam veterans left to go when there are only less than 850,000 living according to http://www.umwa.org and http://www.dav.org, as well as other websites? I’d like to understand the numbers. I definitely appreciate all being accomplished.

  4. Dick Lancaster March 18, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    I would say the most common treatment received by those who served during the Vietnam era was indifference. This would include the DoD and the VA as well as civilians. Some vets had it worse, of course. But let’s not forget this treatment continued up until the Gulf War. The introduction of women into the ranks tended to subdue any harsh treatment to post Vietnam era vets since this agenda was a pet project of the leftists who led the anti-military crusade. But it was Ronald Reagan who leveled the greatest insult to post Vietnam vets when he ordered the Marines to die—then walk away, after the 1983 bombing of the barracks in Beirut. What I learned from my service is that we don’t–and haven’t, fought for our country since WWII. We fight for our government, the banks and the corporations which profit from our blood. Most don’t know that the last battle of the Vietnam era occurred on a tiny Cambodian island. Called the, Mayaguez Incident,” it was the first battle commanded by a President in real time from Washington DC. President Ford boasted of this incredible victory he led. But he failed to mention 3 live Marines were left behind to become the first victims of “the killing fields.” A dozen fallen were also abandoned—not by their comrades, but from orders from above–and no one knows who gave the order to abandon guys just like you and me. We must remember who, “We the People,” really are and make sure that our leaders are chosen by us. How are we doing so far?

  5. Jack Ogden March 18, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve been lucky. I survived. Drafted in Army 69-70. Missed 68 Tet Offensive. Provided base security at Camp Holloway, Pleiku – both on LPs outside base and later on, on the base. Eventually, I became the bookkeeper at the Officers Club. Really lucky. Still my hooch was next to the runway and it was interesting when Charles would walk the mortars up the runway on a pretty regular basis. So I was fired upon with mortars, occasional rockets, RPGs, and small arms on the LP. I was lucky, I survived uninsured it seemed. Only hang up has been the cancer I have developed. It has riddled my body now and I have been stage four for some time – 100% permanently disabled. I just want to say the VA has backed me up so far. Of course, I have had to do some serious arm wrestling a few times. Still I know I am lucky and I feel for my brothers who are struggling. Peace to you all.

  6. Tanner Iskra March 18, 2021 at 11:17 am

    To Each Vietnam Veteran Who Sees This Thread,

    I said it last year when I did a similar story:

    As a post-9/11 veteran, I don’t think I can thank your generation enough. It was a terrible and unfortunate thing that happened when you came home. Good, bad, or indifferent on your opinion on Vietnam, you were asked to go and you went – and you weren’t thanked for the sacrifices that you bore. I don’t know if that can ever be healed for some. I can only imagine how I would feel, but I didn’t, and I can attribute that to how you were treated.

    If there is any solace, know that the cross you bore allowed my generation to be acknowledged and thanked the way we are. I don’t know if Veterans today would be acknowledged and treated the way we are without what you endured. It taught the country an important lesson to never treat our service members that way again.

    I know your heart and mind go back to the days you came home, but please know that our generation sees you as heroes, and we can’t thank you enough for the cross you had no choice but to bear.

    – Tanner

  7. donald j fraley March 18, 2021 at 10:16 am

    hello,im a viet nam disabled veteran and iv been suffering from agent orange exposure my whole life. i applied for the agent orange disability in the 80s and again in the 90s and never heard a word back yet. i spent 5 and a half months in the hospital being evacuated from viet nam and sent home. i am total and permanent disabled. i still to this day am still suffering from the exposure to agent orange. iv had no less than 40 hospital stays and numerous surgerys . iv lost several sections of intestans. i feel like im owed 100 percent back pay all the back to 1970 when i was medically retired from the united states army. the veterans affairs hospital in dayton ohio has treated me like dirt and so i do not go there any more. after all these years i know they will be glad when were all dead and gone.

  8. James D AIKEY March 18, 2021 at 6:18 am

    YOUR WORK IS COMMENDABLE. I KNOW THAT I GOT N0 POSITIVE RECOGNATION ON MY/OUR RETURN, ONLY NEGATIVE NATIONAL RECOGNATION. GAVE UP HOPE AND WENT ABOUT ME FOR ME.STILL NOW ONLY A FEW ARE PERMITTED IN , AM ALMOST A LONER.

  9. Harvey Nakamura March 18, 2021 at 4:05 am

    I served with the USNMCB5 unit (Navy Seabees) in Danang 1968/69 and in Danang/Saigon 1969/1970. I have never had any recognition for my service. I got spat on upon my arrival and called a “Baby Killer” and i never had a good feeling about my 18 month deployment.

  10. Robert Bowermaster March 17, 2021 at 6:44 pm

    Our LP was overrun and I was shot twice, once thru the rt.chest with a sucking chest wound and my fireteam abandoned me I stuck my rt. index finger onto the wound which allowed me to breathe thru my mouth, I freeked out when breathing thru the hole in my chest. I was being dragged by my heals down the dirt road and thought it was my Marines pulling me to safety, it was the enemy had my ankles dragging me, I screamed and called for help as loud as I could, bang bang my legs dropped and there is Marine cpl. Thomas R Searfoss, he immediately performed mouth and kept me alive, 3 other Marines came and they put me in a poncho carrying me up to the battle, these Marines are shooting while carrying me, suddenly an RPG exploded under me, I flew straight up and the others were blown away to the side, no major injuries, it felt like my butt was blown off. Years later after six back surgery I have rods holding my spine together, had to have lung surgery one year later where the rt. upper lobe of the lung was removed. I suffer daily from these injuries and receive 90 percent service connected disability. It’s a true story and I have the scars to prove it. I am disappointed in the VA and the ratings I recieve. But I am very happy to be alive and have five children and six grandchildren and one great grandchild. God Bless you all, and the work you do.

  11. GREGORY M BROWN March 17, 2021 at 6:15 pm

    I have a brother-in-law who is a Vietnam combat Veteran who claims he had agent orange contact. He has never received any benefits. How can I connect him with you?

    • Tanner Iskra March 18, 2021 at 11:14 am

      Hi Gregory,

      VA’s White House Hotline and VA Vet Centers are great “front doors” to VA services.

      White House VA Hotline: 1-855-948-2311.

      https://www.va.gov/ve/whvahotline.asp
      https://www.vetcenter.va.gov/About_US.asp

    • George Wayne Quick March 26, 2021 at 7:05 am

      Good on ya, brother

      I’m Army but working with Marines

      all infantry. ⚔️

      also Vietnam combat vet & 90% disabled

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