During his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy affirmed that the United States stood ready to pay any price and to bear any burden to preserve freedom and liberty. Vietnam War Veterans surely shouldered that burden. More than 58,000 of them paid the ultimate price and another 153,000 were wounded over the course of the conflict.
Today, on National Vietnam War Veterans Day, VBA joins the rest of the nation in honoring the service and sacrifice of all Veterans who served in the Armed Forces from 1955 to 1975.
On March 29, 1973, the last U.S. combat troops departed South Vietnam. Hanoi also released at this time the last contingent of the more than 600 Americans taken prisoner during the war.
The Vietnam War by the numbers
The Vietnam War was a joint effort, with the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard all playing significant roles throughout. Overall, more than 8.7 million military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam era from 1964 to 1975. This number includes an estimated 11,000 women, 340,000 African Americans, 42,000 Native Americans, and 35,000 Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.
While the war officially ended over 45 years ago, 1,585 service members remain unaccounted for as a result of the conflict. For families and friends left behind, the fate of the missing in action continues to be one of the most painful legacies of the Vietnam War. Although gone, they are not forgotten: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency now spearheads the government’s effort to recover and repatriate the remains of service members who went missing in Vietnam and other U.S. wars.
Honoring our Veterans
VA has been attending to the needs of Vietnam Veterans since the earliest days of the conflict. In 1966, Congress passed the Veterans’ Readjustment Benefits Act, a GI Bill for Veterans of the Vietnam era. This law provided Veterans with educational stipends to attend colleges or trade schools and the opportunity to secure low-interest home loans backed by VA.
Today, the estimated 6 million surviving men and women who served during the Vietnam era comprise the largest living cohort of Veterans and they have earned the profound gratitude of the nation. Through VA, Vietnam Veterans have access to a full array of benefits, including affordable life insurance, medical care, compensation for disabilities related to their time in service, and pensions.
Veterans who served on active duty from November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, are also eligible to receive a commemorative lapel pin.
We encourage all Vietnam Veterans and eligible beneficiaries to learn about benefits or file a claim at VA.gov.
Shawn D. Graham is a public affairs specialist in VBA’s Office of Strategic Engagement; Jeffrey Seiken, Ph.D., is the VBA historian.