The American Legion Department of Maryland’s annual National Security Forum-Pearl Harbor Day, held Dec. 7 at Greenbelt American Legion Post 136, focused on the continued commemoration by The American Legion of the Vietnam War 50th anniversary. Greenbelt and state leaders and guest speakers addressed their experiences in the war, and military and social considerations of the time.
Observation of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War began Memorial Day in 2012 and ends in 2025. President Obama’s 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War proclamation recognized a chapter in our nation’s history that must not be forgotten. He said, “It will be a 13-year program to honor and give thanks to a generation of proud Americans who saw our country through one of the most challenging missions it has ever faced.”
Although the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam conflict was a prominent feature of the forum, Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan opened the program reminding everyone of President Roosevelt’s words that the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, was a date which will live in infamy. “We will never forget those stirring words,” Jordan said. “We have fewer and fewer WWII veterans, fewer than 1 million are still living. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.”
Additional Pearl Harbor Day history was provided by Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary George Owings III, who related the return of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Albert Eugene Hayden’s remains. He was the first Maryland veteran to die in WWII when Japanese planes sank the battleship USS Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor. His remains were returned home to Maryland 67 years after his death and he was laid to rest beside his parents in the St. Joseph’s parish cemetery in St. Mary’s County. Owings also gave details of the Maryland state legislature’s bill that directed, as of October 2017, that the POW/MIA flag be flown on the grounds of all state buildings whenever the U.S. flag was flown. “Flying the POW/MIA flag with the U.S. flag honors servicemembers who were prisoners of war (POW), servicemembers missing in action (MIA), and their families, and reminds us of the American values for which they fought,” he said.
Judith Davis, Mayor Pro-Tem and member of the Greenbelt American Legion’s Auxiliary Unit 136, shared personal memories about Vietnam veterans. Davis said she has a strong appreciation for America’s veterans; her father was a WWII veteran of the European Theater of Operations. She said that the Vietnam veterans did not receive the acknowledgement they deserved. “I now fully understand and fully appreciate (Vietnam veterans') service,” Davis said. “I will remember to honor them and never forget.”
Keynote speaker Joe Galloway is a distinguished war and foreign correspondent for newspapers and wire services who covered the Vietnam War, the 1971 India-Pakistan War and half a dozen other combat operations. In 1998 Galloway was belatedly decorated with a Bronze Star medal with V for valor during a battle with the North Vietnamese army in the Ia Drang Valley in 1965. He was there as a journalist and during the three days of fighting he, while under fire, risked his own safety to rescue wounded soldiers. “Eighty young men laid down their lives during that battle and I lived and pledged to tell their story, to tell the truth about their courage and heroism,” Galloway said. From that experience he co-authored with the late Lt.Gen. Hal Moore the book "We Were Soldiers Once…And Young," which was made into the movie "We Were Soldiers." His is the only medal of valor the U.S. Army awarded to a civilian for actions in combat during the entire Vietnam War.