Welcome Remarks for "Remembering Veterans: A Conversation About What Happens after Duty, Honor, Country"
McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
November 14, 2018
Good afternoon. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. Whether you’re here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube, I’m pleased to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives for today’s discussion—“Remembering Veterans: A Conversation About What Happens after Duty, Honor, Country.”
Before we get started, I would like to announce that former Senator and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will not be able to attend today’s event. We just received word that Secretary Hagel is ill and is presently seeking treatment from his doctor. He sends his regrets, but he is physically unable to be with us. I am sure you will join with me in wishing the Secretary a speedy recovery.
We are pleased and honored to present this special program honoring Vietnam Veterans, featuring our special guest—Congressman Sam Johnson––and our panel of Vietnam veterans and veterans advocates who will discuss what has been done, what is currently being done, and what needs to be done for our veterans.
Today’s program is one in a series of discussions, film programs, lectures, and other events we are presenting in conjunction with our special exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam,” now open in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery.
The exhibit is a media-rich exploration of the Vietnam War, featuring interviews with American and Vietnamese veterans and civilians with first-hand experience of the war’s events, as well as historic analysis. It is a fascinating collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam.
As you entered the building, you saw three Vietnam-era helicopters parked on our lawn. These historic Bell helicopters are here for the Veterans Day weekend, courtesy of the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, Bell Helicopter, and the Lawrence F. O’Brien Family. We would like to recognize the representatives from the Helicopter Association who are here today.
You can chat with members of the association—all Vietnam veterans—and take a close look at the helicopters through Friday, November 16. I urge you to take advantage of this rare opportunity for one-on-one history.
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Now I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time from November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, to stand and be recognized.
Veterans, as you exit the McGowan Theater after today’s program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. On the back of the pin is embossed:
“A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”
The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation’s lasting memento of thanks.
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And now it’s my honor to introduce our distinguished panel:
Linda Schwartz began her military career in 1967, right out of nursing school, when she enlisted in the Air Force to serve in the Vietnam War. She has become a tireless advocate for veterans, and served in the Veterans Administration as Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Policy and Planning under President Barack Obama.
Rick Weidman served as an Army Medical Corpsman during the Vietnam War. He continues to be one of the most respected veteran advocates on Capitol Hill. As a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and its primary spokesperson in Washington, DC, he has long advocated for a host of issues for veterans across the board, including Agent Orange, access to quality mental health care, and employment and small business issues.
Garry Augustine, a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, was appointed executive director for the more than 1 million-member Disabled American Veterans National Service and Legislative Headquarters in Washington, DC, in August 2013. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in August 1969, and was assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade in South Vietnam.
Our moderator for today’s discussion is John Milewski, a veteran broadcast journalist and communications professional with extensive experience as a moderator, interviewer, anchor, reporter, and producer. He currently serves as Director of Digital Programming and Executive Producer and Managing Editor of Wilson ON DEMAND for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Please welcome our panel to the stage.
And now to conclude our program, it’s my honor to introduce Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas, a decorated war hero who ranks among the few Members of Congress to have fought in combat, serving for 29 years in the U.S. Air Force. In 1966, during his second tour in Vietnam, he was shot down and endured nearly seven years as a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, including 42 months in solitary confinement after his captors labeled him a “die-hard.” Sam returned home to Texas in February 1973 as part of “Operation Homecoming.” Following his distinguished military career, he established a home-building business in North Dallas from scratch and served in the Texas state legislature before running for the United States House of Representatives in 1991. He is the recipient of numerous awards honoring his military service and his legislative efforts on behalf of troops and veterans.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Congressman Sam Johnson.