WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2017 —
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan welcomed the directors of “The Vietnam War” documentary to the Pentagon today and spoke directly to Vietnam vets as the Defense Department continued its commemoration of the Vietnam War.
Shanahan thanked directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick for capturing the stories and histories and sparking “a national conversation” on the war.
The Burns and Novick documentary and the DoD commemoration share the emphasis on the human cost of Vietnam, Shanahan said. “As the years go by, we risk losing touch with the most important aspect of that time or any time: The people — the Americans who put on a uniform, answered the call and sacrificed for our country,” he said.
The commemoration event featured about 20 minutes of the Vietnam documentary — showing a battle of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in South Vietnam, bombing raids in North Vietnam and peace protestors marching on the Pentagon. The documentary tried to include all viewpoints and voices from all sides.
“One of the great strengths of our country … is not just our ability to compromise, but our ability to look at ourselves and be critical of what we are doing,” Burns said in a short question-and-answer period following the film. “All of us are the beneficiaries of … that generation of Vietnam soldiers who came out of that. We learned one lesson from the war: We are not going to blame the warriors again, and that is a really good lesson.”
Developing the Next Generation
Shanahan noted that the Vietnam generation raised today’s generation of military leaders. “In that way, their protection of our country extends beyond their own years in uniform to the present day,” the deputy secretary said. “We’re here to say thank you to these good and faithful servants and to their families.”
Shanahan said those who served in Vietnam were men and women “of quiet courage and patriotism, men of grit and determination who rendered superior service in uniform and later as civilians in their communities.”
The deputy secretary is the son of Vietnam veteran Mike Shanahan, who served in the U.S. Army. “He returned home and continued his selfless service to his fellow Americans with another 25 years in law enforcement,” Shanahan said. “Growing up, my understanding of the war came from my Dad, his friends and the few stories they would share.”
New generations need to know of the courage the Vietnam generation showed in Southeast Asia, Shanahan said. New generations need to understand the trials endured and sacrifices Vietnam vets made.
Shanahan spoke for the department and all its service members telling the Vietnam vets in the standing-room-only audience that today’s military looks up to them. “We in the Department of Defense are proud of you,” he said. “On behalf of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and everyone on the Pentagon: Thank you.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)