Some of today’s students have grandparents who served in the Vietnam War or lived during that era of history. Unfortunately, these same students may not understand that war or its place in our nation’s history.
National Vietnam War Veterans Day, on March 29 each year, is a great opportunity to introduce elementary students to the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War began in 1954, when communist North Vietnam attacked South Vietnam. American leaders supported South Vietnam with money, weapons and training forces throughout the next decade. President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the first American troops to Vietnam in February 1965. The last American troops left Vietnam March 29, 1973.
According to statistics from the National Archives, 2.7 million military personnel served in Vietnam, and 58,220 died. Those who died or went missing in action are memorialized on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.
In 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of America’s first combat mission against the Viet Cong. In his 2012 Presidential Proclamation, Obama declared:
“Through more than a decade of conflict that tested the fabric of our Nation, the service
of our men and women in uniform stood true. Fifty years after that fateful mission, we
honor the more than 3 million Americans who served, we pay tribute to those we have
laid to rest, and we reaffirm our dedication to showing a generation of veterans the
respect and support of a grateful Nation. ….
“Our veterans answered our country’s call and served with honor, and on March 29, 1973,
the last of our troops left Vietnam. Yet, in one of the war’s most profound tragedies,
many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected — to face
treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example.
We must never let this happen again. Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations: to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and
dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us.”
President Donald Trump followed Obama’s example, and made the commemorative day official in 2017 by signing the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act into law.
The week leading up to March 29 is a good time to teach students why we commemorate these veterans. Studies Weekly Online has many articles, images and videos — especially in grades 4-6 — to help you teach about this war and its veterans.
Introducing Students to the Vietnam War
This video shares a short introduction to the Vietnam War, and explains some of the reasons American leaders decided to help the South Vietnamese people.
The Cost of War
In this video interview, Vietnam War veteran Carl Duffield shares how hard it was to watch his friends die in battle. Carl tells of one incident where a grenade exploded near his squad, injuring him and killing others.
To find more videos, images and articles about the Vietnam War, use the Search Bar at Studies Weekly Online.