JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On National Vietnam War Veterans Day, Americans come together to commemorate the service and sacrifices made by the nearly 3 million service members who served in Vietnam.
In Jacksonville, the day was observed at a memorial for African American veterans who fought in the war.
The war wall in Jacksonville’s LaVilla neighborhood pays tribute to African American service members, including those who fought in Vietnam.
“We really had to fight a war within a war. Racism was still existing in boot camp and even in Vietnam,” Vietnam veteran Hallie Williams-Bey.
Local veterans and their supporters gathered Monday in front of images illustrated by a local artist to bring back a painful for all and give a salute to the African American service members who came home from the controversial war.
The “Wall of “Honor, Service and Patriotism” also honors those who didn’t come back, giving their lives in a fight for freedom.
It’s a fight that for many African Americans in particular kept going.
“Fighting for rights, we felt we had earned because of our participation in the wars from 1812 all the way up to present,” said Vietnam veteran Richard Danford. “This is our way of really helping our community understand the sacrifices of our veterans.”
Danford is the founder of the LaVilla Center, where the wall stands. He said he believes we need to use Vietnam War Veterans Day as more than a salute to the sacrifices made.
“How can we bring our country now -- and our city and our state -- closer together? I think that’s what would be important and that would be a way of recognizing our veterans,” Danford said.
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation, designating March 29 as the annual observance of Vietnam War Veterans Day. At Monday’s observance in LaVilla, the veterans also applauded President Donald Trump for signing it into law in 2017, making the day official.