Congressman Buck McKeon visited a gathering in Valencia Saturday afternoon in tribute to "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day." The following are his remarks to the group, which included Vietnam-era veterans and other military veterans.
“The United States became involved in Vietnam because we believed if South Vietnam fell to a communist government, communism would spread throughout the rest of Southeast Asia. The U.S. Armed Forces began serving in an advisory role to the South Vietnamese in 1961, and in 1965, ground combat troops were sent into Vietnam. More than 58,000 members of the United States Armed Forces lost their lives and more than 300,000 were wounded in Vietnam.
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“These heroes served our nation at a time when their service was not appreciated by all. Many of these heroes have since dedicated their lives to insuring that all veterans are treated with dignity, respect and honor. In January 1978, a small group of Vietnam veteran activists came to Washington, D.C., searching for allies to support the creation of an advocacy organization devoted exclusively to the needs of Vietnam veterans. Due to their hard work and dedication, in 2007, both the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate passed resolutions to create a national “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” (WHVVD).
“Today this group continues working on behalf of the newest generation of veterans in areas where they are needed most, such as VA claims representation and benefits advocacy. They work as a crucial, and all too often absent, support system for our nations transitioning war heroes.
“Santa Clarita stands as an example for communities across the United States on how to honor our veterans. Our Prayer Angels for the Military and Blue Star Mothers work diligently to send care packages to our deployed troops. Our Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars work tirelessly as benefits advocates for our veterans, and are ever present in our community. The College of the Canyons’ Veteran office serves over 500 veterans utilizing education benefits. The SCV Warrior Scholarship and Sgt. Ian Gelig Memorial Scholarship honor veterans of Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom with a $500/semester scholarship. Last year, the City of Santa Clarita dedicated the Cross Valley Connector Bridge to our local fallen heroes, naming it the Fallen Warrior Memorial Bridge.
“The work I do in Washington, D.C. as Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, is laced with stinging reminders of the prices paid by our service men and women, families and communities toward the cost of freedom, liberty and security. Therefore, at every turn and every given opportunity, we must take heart together, to give thanks and honor those among us who have served our nation in pursuit of democracy and safety for future generations.
“Our veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Vietnam deserve the greatest honor and respect - honor and respect they were denied when they arrived home. We must pledge to never forget the outstanding strength, service and sacrifice of those who fought to defend democracy, human dignity and the right to self-determination. I am proud to join Santa Clarita in honoring our Vietnam Veterans and thanking Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, National Guardsmen and Coasties for willingly putting their lives on the line every day so that we may live as a free nation.
“God bless our veterans, our community and the United States of America.”