May 28th, 2012
04:47 PM ET
During a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC on Monday afternoon, President Obama celebrated the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War by honoring its veterans.
Standing before the dark granite wall bearing the names of the 58,282 Americans who died as a result of the war in Vietnam, Obama touched on the nation’s historically contentious relationship with the veterans from one of its most controversial military engagements.
“One of the most painful chapters in our history was Vietnam, most particularly how we treated our troops who served there,” the president said. “You were often blamed for a war you didn’t start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor. You were sometimes blamed for misdeeds of a few, when the honorable service of the many should have been praised. You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. And that's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again.”
Promising to “set the record straight” in honor of the war’s anniversary, Obama thanked the men and women who volunteered for service and the prisoners of war, who he said “wrote one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history.”
Obama asked all the Vietnam veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized before publically welcoming home a generation of service members that he said was too often ignored when they returned home from battle.
“Welcome home,” Obama said. “Welcome home. Thank you. We appreciate you. Welcome home.”
In closing, the president called on the country to look back on this controversial war and use it as a lesson of what unites the country rather than what divides it.
“On this anniversary and all the years to come, let us remember what binds us, as one people,” Obama said. “This is important for all of us, whether you fought in the Vietnam War or fought against it, whether you were too young to be shaped by it. It is important that our children understand the sacrifices that were made by your troops in Vietnam; that for them, this is more than just a name in history books.”