‘Their legacy will never be lost’: Vietnam War veterans honored at Virginia War Memorial
RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Hundreds of families and veterans gathered at the Virginia War Memorial on Tuesday for National Vietnam War Veterans Day.
More than 230,000 Virginians served in the war, with more than 1,300 never returning home.
For many in attendance, like retired Army Lt. Col. Dr. Jona McKee, many veterans found comfort in being surrounded by others who served.
“I like to think that we have a bond that can’t be broken,” McKee said. “When we see each other, we see men of honor, men of courage.”
Veterans across the Commonwealth were recognized on this Vietnam War Veterans Day by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
“Some of you came home to an America that had turned its back on you, and yet you never turned your back on America,” Youngkin said.
Their service back then helped transform our military into what it is today.
“The shoulders that we stand on are your shoulders,” said Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Craig Crenshaw. “You’ve set foundations, you’ve broken barriers.”
“Their legacy will never be lost in Virginia, because these stories will always be told,” Youngkin added.
That stands true for the soon-to-be 94-year-old McKee. He is one of roughly 170,000 veterans to serve in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, memories that have not faded.
“[Feels] almost like it was yesterday,” McKee said.
After WWII, McKee returned to Virginia, attending school at Virginia State University; however, he returned to the Army to fight in Korea and Vietnam.
Following the Vietnam War, McKee continued to give back to his country in another way.
“He served as a Professor of Military Science at Virginia State University,” Youngkin said. “He was inducted into the National ROTC Hall of Fame at Ft. Knox for increasing ROTC enrollment by more than 100% and commissioning more than 260 officers.”
Youngkin recognized McKee’s lengthy service at Tuesday’s ceremony.
“Mr. McKee, the Commonwealth, and the nation thank you for your service,” he said.
“Hard to describe, it’s such a pleasure though, that little old me would be singled out,” laughed McKee.
Meanwhile, every Vietnam veteran in attendance was also personally recognized, receiving a pin that was pinned on by state leaders.
“You have made a difference, and you allow our active-duty members today to continue making a difference,” Crenshaw said.
Currently, the Virginia War Memorial is planning a new exhibition featuring 50 of the state’s Vietnam War veterans.
“This exhibit will open on January 27, 2023, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, which were officially titled ‘Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Viet Nam,’” the website states.
Those in charge of creating the exhibit plan to feature candid photos of veterans during their time in Vietnam alongside professional photos of those same veterans today.
For more information, click here.
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