Army & Air Force Exchange Service honors Vietnam Veterans in ceremonies worldwide

U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark A. Kauffman
U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark A. Kauffman

Army & Air Force Exchange Service honors Vietnam Veterans in ceremonies worldwide

by Staff Sgt. Mark A. Kauffman
Army & Air Force Exchange Service Public Affairs

DALLAS – The Army & Air Force Exchange Service honored Vietnam Veterans for their distinguished service during pinning ceremonies worldwide for National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

Veterans received free lapel pins, provided in partnership with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, on March 29, as lasting mementos of our Nation’s appreciation for these heroes whose service was often underappreciated. 

“Many of the Veterans who served during the Vietnam War did not receive the homecoming they deserved,” said Exchange Director CEO/Tom Shull. “While serving in the Army as a platoon leader during the Vietnam era, I saw many Soldiers return home broken. These heroes served honorably and made tremendous sacrifices. The lapel pin is a small token of our Nation’s appreciation, reminding Vietnam Veterans that we honor their service.”

The Department of Defense’s largest retailer has hosted pinning events for National Vietnam War Veterans Day since 2018, except for 2020, when the recognition was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 ceremonies followed Centers for Disease Control and DoD guidelines to ensure safety for the Veterans and their families. The ceremonies were contactless, with Veterans taking the pins from a tray or table.

“It’s great to see any Veteran being recognized,” said Air Force Master Sgt. (Retired) Stanley Richardson, who received his pin at the U.S. Army Garrison Exchange in Wiesbaden, Germany. “Especially for those of us who served in such difficult times and didn’t get the same welcome home that our troops now get when they return from a deployment.”

At Camp Foster in Okinawa, the Exchange gave out the commemoration pin and other mementos at the customer service desk with contactless interactions. 

“I am very proud of the nation’s commemoration that honors Vietnam Veterans who served and supported our country during a critical time in our history,” said U.S. Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 (retired) Curtis J. Kozlesky, who received his pin at the Camp Foster store. “During the war, we gave so much; some gave the ultimate sacrifice and we are very proud to be Vietnam Veterans.”

The message “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You” is engraved on the back of each pin – the side closest to the wearer’s heart. 

The ceremonies honored Veterans who served on active duty from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, regardless of location. 

“Even though I was drafted, it was an honor to serve,” said Army Veteran Armando Enriquez, a combat engineer who survived a tour in the war during his 20 years of service and received his pin at the Wiesbaden Exchange. “I think this is great that we are being recognized because we didn’t receive the greatest reception coming home back then.” 

The Exchange is a 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative Partner, planning and conducting events and activities that recognize Vietnam Veterans and their families for service, valor and sacrifice in conjunction with the Commemoration.

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On March 29, National Vietnam War Veterans Day, Col. Scott Maskery, Army & Air Force Exchange Service Pacific Region commander, United States Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 (retired) Curtis J. Kozlesky and Sgt. Maj. Wayne Crudup, AAFES Pacific Region senior enlisted leader, met at the Exchange’s Foster Main Store to honor Vietnam Veterans for their service, valor, and sacrifice. In 1969, Cpl. Kozlesky served a 12-month tour as a supply Non-Commissioned Officer for 1st Force Service Regiment, Force Logistics Command in Danang, Vietnam; today, he is the Commander for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 9723, in Okinawa, Japan who helps provide services and support for veterans, spouses, widows and their children during time of need. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark A. Kauffman)

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