Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans'
DeCA joins national salute to service members
FORT LEE, Va. (Mar. 30, 2016) – The annual observance of "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day," March 29-30, recognizes the withdrawal of U.S. combat personnel and combat-support units from Vietnam in 1973.
Observed by 38 states and Puerto Rico, the two-day event commemorates the sacrifices of Vietnam veterans and their families during the conflict in which the United States participated in some fashion from 1954 to 1975.
The Defense Commissary Agency is proud to join in this national effort to recognize the men and women who served in Vietnam, said Joseph H. Jeu, agency director and CEO.
"A large number of our retired patrons served in Vietnam," Jeu said. "Many of them returned from that conflict and were denied a proper welcome. This celebration is long overdue and well-deserved for those who returned and more importantly for the memories of those who went and never returned."
The U.S. combat mission in Vietnam lasted from 1965 to 1973, but American military advisors and their families were already stationed in Vietnam in the mid-1950s, taking the place of French military personnel who had unsuccessfully attempted to regain control of their Indo-China colony after World War II.
These events took place during the infamous "Red Scare" of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when most Americans were convinced communist forces and subversives were hard at work to gain world domination. The so-called "domino theory" was a popular concept that warned after one nation fell to communism, the next would fall as well, and the next, and so on. So, when the French were defeated by rebel communist forces in 1954, the United States quickly became the sponsor of the anti-communist government of South Vietnam.
The history of America's involvement in Vietnam and U.S. military commissaries go hand in hand. The first commissary in Vietnam opened in downtown Saigon in 1959. Others opened in the Saigon area at Long Binh, the Cholon district, Newport and near Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Together, they served approximately several thousand active duty personnel and their families. Initially run by the Navy, they became the Army's responsibility by 1966.
By mid-1964, the Vietnam commissaries were placed under heavy guard after a report that communist-backed Viet Cong guerillas intended to bomb them. In 1965, the war escalated and hundreds of thousands of combat troops were brought in. There was simply no way for the Saigon-area commissaries to serve them all; there were too many of them, and they were scattered all over the country. Instead, they were given mess hall privileges, along with additional pay enabling them to shop on the local economy. Only contractors, reporters, government workers and high-ranking officers could still shop in the commissaries.
The stores operated after the 1973 cease-fire, as many Americans remained in-country in non-combat missions. But in 1975, Communist forces took Saigon. As Americans and their Vietnamese support personnel fled for their lives, the local population – not knowing from where their next meal was coming – looted the commissaries. It was a sudden end to the American commissary mission in Vietnam, but they had fulfilled their mission well.
Note: Photos related to this news release are on our Flickr page.
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit and make no profit on the sale of merchandise. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. By shopping regularly in the commissary, patrons save thousands of dollars annually. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.
Kevin L. Robinson
(804) 734-8000, Ext. 4-8773