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Friday, November 04, 2016

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, NOVEMBER 4, 2016

STATEWIDE EFFORTS TO HONOR VIETNAM VETERANS

As we reach November 11 and honor all Veterans this year, it is noteworthy to recognize one of several initiatives to honor Vietnam Veterans who returned home unrecognized for their service when the war ended. The Vietnam Memorial is one of the most moving and popular historic sites in Washington and a traveling "Moving Wall" exhibit has carried the replica of the Vietnam Wall to communities all around the country.

VIETNAM WAR CERTIFICATE OF HONOR PROGRAM

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a multi-year event marking the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It extended from Memorial Day 2012 and will end on Veterans Day 2025. The Georgia Department of Veterans Service (GDVS) is honoring Georgia's veterans with a program of events happening all across the state.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 9 million Americans served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during the period of the Vietnam War. Approximately 7 million servicemen are still living.

Georgia has an estimated 234,000 veterans who served during that time period residing in the state today. GDVS is recognizing each of these individuals that wish to be recognized with the Vietnam War Certificate of Honor program - a program to pay tribute to all eligible Georgia veterans who served honorably during the Vietnam War period.

The program began in March, 2015. As of June 1, 2016, about 13,000 Georgia Vietnam Veterans had been acknowledged and the Georgia Department of Veterans Service had participated in 192 ceremonies. A typical ceremony honors 30-70 recipients with a certificate and a lapel pin, although, some larger gatherings host 100 or more veterans at a time.

By Veterans Day, November 11, 2016, GDVS will have conducted another 17 ceremonies awarding over 500 additional certificates and will have mailed hundreds more.

The ceremonies are joint efforts by GDVS and various partner organizations in the initiative such as American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, private companies, churches, and other organizations.

STATE BUDGET SUPPORT FOR THE PROGRAM

The Vietnam War Certificate initiative received support during the 2016 legislative session with the addition of $25,000 in state funds in the Amended FY2016 Budget (HB750) to provide for the remainder of the fiscal year with support of the Senate. Those funds pay for printing, mailing, and some travel across the state. Other aspects of the program - facilities where ceremonies are held and other associated costs - are all provided by the various partner organizations participating in the program.

In the FY2017 General Budget (HB751), $25,000 in state funds was added to sustain the Vietnam War Certificate program, provided in an ongoing annual fashion so as to ensure that all of Georgia's eligible Vietnam Veterans who wish to be recognized can be honored through to Veterans Day 2025 when the national Vietnam War Commemoration concludes. The Governor signed HB751 on May 2, 2016, authorizing those funds to continue.

PARTICIPATION INFORMATION

The Vietnam War veteran population is an aging group ranging in age from early sixties to eighties, some with failing health, so the effort to honor them is a race against time. With 13,000 certificates awarded since the program started in March 2015, that totals about 929 veterans per month. If all of Georgia's 234,000 Vietnam era veterans are to be honored by Veterans Day 2025, roughly 1,828 need to be recognized each month until then. So, the pace needs to quicken.

If you are a veteran of the Vietnam War, or know someone who is, contact GDVS, or this office, for more participation details with the information below.

To apply, please send your name, rank, branch of service, dates of service, and a copy of your DD Form 214 to certificates@vs.state.ga.us or to Georgia Department of Veterans Service, Attn: Certificates, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30334, or call 404-463-3080 for more information.

Members of veterans' service organizations are encouraged to apply to receive their certificates together. For information on making a group application, email certificates@vs.state.ga.us or call 404-463-3080.

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