DLA Distribution celebrates Vietnam War 50th anniversary

By Emily Tsambiras DLA Distribution Public Affairs

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To kick off its participation in a federal, 13-year long commemoration of those that served during the Vietnam War, DLA Distribution hosted veterans Sgt. (Ret.) Joseph Boslet and re-enactor Timothy Meade from the U.S. Army Heritage Center in Carlisle, Pa. 

On May 28th, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed the period of May 28th, 2012, to November 11, 2025, as the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  In doing so, he called upon federal, state and local officials to honor the nation’s Vietnam veterans, the fallen, the wounded, those unaccounted for, former prisoners of war, their families, and all who served.

Earlier this year, DLA Distribution applied to be a part of the President Obama’s commemoration program and, on May 28, 2015, Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Ashton Carter, designated DLA Distribution as a commemorative partner.  

Prior to introducing Boslet, DLA Distribution commander Army Brig. Gen. Richard Dix shared how his future was impacted by a Vietnam veteran.  “I’d like to share a quick story: 49 years ago, there was a baby in a crib and his godfather was preparing to leave for Vietnam.  The baby grabbed the man’s dog tags and wouldn’t let them go.  So the man waited until the baby fell asleep, gently removed them from the baby’s hands, and left.  When the man returned from war one year later, the first thing the baby did was pat his godfather’s chest, looking for those dog tags.  The man took them off, gave them to the baby and said ‘Watch this boy.  He’s going to be something in the Army one day.’ 

As the baby grew into a young man, he loved watching movies on World Wars I and II and the Korean War and noticed how those that served during these eras were all celebrated for their valor when they returned.  He also noticed that this was not the case with the nation’s Vietnam War veterans.  But, nevertheless, he was appreciative and humbled by those that went before him.  That young man is now standing before you. 

As a nation, we are 50 years late in saying ‘Thank you’ to another part of the greatest generation that has served this country, and I am on a personal crusade to give my thanks.  I am humbled that I followed in their footsteps.  We are going to right a wrong that was done to those men and women.” 

Guest speaker Boslet reminded employees of the sacrifices made by those that served in the second longest war in America’s history by sharing his own experiences.  Boslet enlisted in the United States Army in December 1968.  When a friend informed him the previous August that he was on the list to be drafted, Boslet was determined to join the fight on his own. “My family has consistently served since World War I and we were all volunteers.”

Following basic training at Ft. Gordon, Ga., he was sent to Army Intelligence School where he spent 47 weeks learning the Vietnamese language.  In October 1970, he was bound for Vietnam. 

In theater, Boslet was part of the Phoenix Program, designed to identify and neutralize the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.  While he says he advanced ahead of units to monitor activity in the areas, he was also part of what he called “hearts and minds” activities, such as rebuilding schools, training local forces, distribution clothes, digging wells, and other civic improvement activities.

He recalls how music was always “all around” in American base camps in Vietnam.  The troops regularly blasted rock and roll, “anything with an angry beat,” says Boslet.  Music such as the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of this Place,” and The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” represented the dejected attitude of many of the draftees and other troops that were fighting for the Nation.

“But what an enriching experiencing if you survived,” says Boslet.  He says many of life’s most vital skills were learned during his time in Vietnam: teamwork, responsibility, accountability and commitment to the mission.

In closing, he asked the audience to “Remember those who gave their lives and honor their sacrifices.  Remember the families because they gave a lot, too.  And may we all benefit and grow from the experience that was Vietnam.”

Dix then called upon Boslet, Meade and Vietnam Veteran United States Navy Capt. (Ret.) George Connolly to unveil the United States of America Vietnam War 50th anniversary commemorative flag, now displayed in DLA Distribution headquarters’ lobby.

During the unveiling, mistress of ceremonies, Stacy Umstead, detailed the symbolism of the colors and shapes used to create the flag.

The use of the color gold to signify a 50th anniversary symbolizes the specific mission of the Department of Defense’s program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.  A representation of the Vietnam service medal (the ribbon) rests below the inner rings.

The red, white and blue inner rings represent the flag of the United States of America and recognize all Americans, both military and civilian, who served or contributed to the Vietnam War effort.

The outer black ring serves as a reminder of those who were killed in action, held as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.  The black rings surround the red, white and blue rings to call attention to their sacrifices, the sacrifices of their families and the defense of our nation’s freedom.

Within the blue ring are the words, “service, valor and sacrifice,” virtues demonstrated by veterans during the Vietnam War.  The gold-rimmed white star located between the words “service” and “valor” represents the hope for the families of those veterans for which there has not been a full accounting.   The gold star located between the words “valor” and “sacrifice” represents the families of those veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the war.  The blue star at the bottom of the inner blue ring represents the families of all veterans and symbolizes their support from home.

At the bottom of the inner blue ring are six white stars, three on each side of the blue star.  These six white stars symbolize the contributions and sacrifices made by the United States and its allies, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea and Thailand.

The center circle contains a map of Vietnam in black outline relief, signifying both the country and the Vietnamese veterans who stood with America’s veterans.  The subdued outlines of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and surrounding waters represent the area of operation where U.S. armed forces served.  The green laurel wreath signifies honor for all who served.

The phrase, “A grateful nation thanks and honors you” is the personal message to each veteran, civilian, family member, and all who served and sacrificed during the Vietnam War.

The seal’s blue background is the same color as the canton in the United States flag. In buildings around the nation, when placed next to the flags of World War II and the Korean War commemoration flags, the Vietnam War flag will signify the Vietnam veterans taking their rightful place among generations of U.S. veterans.

Following the unveiling, Dix called all Vietnam veterans in the audience to come forward to join in cutting the ceremonial cake.

Afterward, the audience browsed Vietnam War-era memorabilia while Meade detailed each items’ use during the war.

DLA Distribution is proud to be a part of the Department of Defense’s Vietnam War Commemorative Partner Program honoring the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the war.  The program is designed for federal, state and local communities, veterans' organizations and other nongovernmental organizations to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and their families.  For more information on the program, please visit http://www.vietnamwar50th.com.