Read the proclamation here
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday issued a proclamation declaring March 29, 2022, as Vietnam Veterans Day. This proclamation commemorates the service of New York state's Vietnam War veterans – the largest demographic group of veterans living in the Empire State – on the anniversary of the date that the last American combat troops departed the Republic of Vietnam. Some New York state landmarks will be lit green, yellow and red, the colors of the Vietnam Service Medal earned by service members from the United States who served during the Vietnam War on the ground in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, or in the contiguous waters or airspace of these areas.
"Vietnam veterans never received the heroes' welcome they so rightfully deserved upon their return from service," Hochul said. "In New York, we are rectifying that by letting our veterans know we are thankful for them and for their service. I am honored to celebrate today as Vietnam Veterans Day to acknowledge the heroic contributions and sacrifices of those who served in Vietnam."
An estimated 217,011 Vietnam War veterans currently reside in New York. Of the names listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., 4,119 are those of New Yorkers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of this nation and the values for which it stands.
One of the many Vietnam Veterans Day ceremonies taking place across New York honored the service of a group of Vietnam War veterans who faced a particularly hostile reception upon their homecoming. Hochul’s team said, “Vietnam War veterans who identify as LGBTQ+ commonly faced social ostracism both for their service in the war and for their sexual orientation. One Vietnam War veteran, Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who earned the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star in combat, gained nationwide attention after challenging in court the Air Force's decision to involuntarily discharge him from service on the basis of his sexual orientation.”
In observation, the New York State Division of Veterans' Services joined with SAGEVets and Long Island Cares for a ceremony celebrating the service of Vietnam War veterans who identify as LGBTQ+. Each veteran in attendance was personally presented with Hochul's Vietnam Veterans Day proclamation and a New York State Division of Veterans' Services challenge coin, individually honoring the contributions that each of these veterans made to the U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War.
New York State Division of Veterans' Services Director Rev. Viviana DeCohen said, "For far too many years, veterans of the Vietnam War were not properly welcomed home to New York state or any state. Today, while we cannot change what occurred in the past, we strive to rectify that grievous wrong by honoring every veteran of the Vietnam War and welcoming them with open arms and grateful hearts. Our division stands ready, willing and able to represent the interests and meet the needs of our state's Vietnam War veterans – not only on this day, but every day."
New York State County Veterans Service Officers Association President Jason Skinner said, "We mark this day to honor those who bravely fought for their country and to ensure we never forget their service and sacrifice. Vietnam veterans endured unspeakable hardships and risked their lives fighting for the ideals of democracy. Please join me in commemorating their bravery on this Vietnam War Veterans Day."
SAGEVets Program Manager Ashton Stewart said, "SAGEVets is honored to be partnering with the New York State Division of Veterans' Services and Long Island Cares Inc. to commemorate National Vietnam Veterans Day. As we honor all who served during the Vietnam conflict, we appreciate Gov. Hochul helping us commemorate LGBTQ+ veterans and recognize their contributions to defending liberty and justice for all."
Hochul’s team said the program coincides with the New York State Military Museum's acceptance of the archival collection of New York State Veterans Hall of Fame inductee Donald MacIver, who served in combat in Vietnam with the U.S. Army special forces – the elite green berets – and earned multiple military honors for his courageous service as a combat medic. MacIver's archives contain hundreds of documents and artifacts that tell the story about LGBTQ+ veterans who served their country in the era prior to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." His archives represent the first collection of this kind to be catalogued and indexed by the New York State Military Museum.