Remarks by Max Cleland, Administrator of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Day National Ceremony
Arlington National Cemetery
November 11, 1979
ADMINISTRATOR CLELAND: Once again you and I and our fellow-citizens throughout this great land pause to honor and to pay special tribute to America's 30 million living and 14 million deceased veterans.
Once again we set aside the challenges and crises that confront and concern us, individually and as a nation, to reaffirm to America's veterans and their families that "A Grateful Nation Remembers."
This theme of Veterans Day 1979 is most appropriate.
It is appropriate on this Veterans Day 1979 that we take a look at how we are remembering our veterans, especially Vietnam veterans -- many of whom feel this nation has forgotten them.
I have just submitted to President Carter a preliminary report on a survey, which he directed be made, on the public's attitude toward American involvement in the Vietnam war.
The polling firm of Louis Harris & Associates, which I commissioned to conduct the survey, found that an overwhelming percentage of people are now willing to separate the warriors from the war. I am enormously pleased that the survey shows a continuing and overwhelming high regard for and sympathy toward Vietnam era veterans.
To me, the findings clearly indicate fertile soil for further efforts to dispel any lingering negative stereotyping of Vietnam era veterans.
Some of the survey's conclusions are:
Public respect for veterans who served in the war has not diminished since 1971, nor has the public become more willing to favorably regard those who evaded military service. Although 62 percent of the public agrees that veterans of the Vietnam War \'. were made suckers, having to risk their lives in the wrong war in the wrong place and at the wrong time, a significantly larger proportion of the public (74%) reports favorable attitudes toward Vietnam era veterans than toward the Vietnam generation as a whole (62%).
Public sympathy for the plight of Vietnam era veterans seems to have increased since 1971, the poll found. Eight years ago, 48 percent felt returning veterans were being treated worse than veterans of earlier wars; today 64 percent hold that view.
The public seems aware that Vietnam veterans have had to face some readjustment problems. Emotional or mental problems, problems in finding work, discrimination because of military service, problems with alcohol and drugs, and alienation and lack of purpose are seen by the public as serious concerns for Vietnam era veterans, according to the poll.
I am proud to announce that the Veterans Administration is now moving in a meaningful way on the need of those Vietnam veterans needing help with their readjustment problems.
Approximately six weeks ago -- on October 1 -- an unprecedented, landmark program to provide readjustment counseling and expanded alcohol and drug treatment services for Vietnam era veterans went into effect.
The enactment of the Veterans Health Care Amendments Act of 1979, reflects the concern of the Congress and the president in this matter and growing public support to secure for thousands of Vietnam era veterans who served with valor and distinction in America's longest war a national commitment of will, resources and professional training to meet their critical need for readjustment counseling.
This fall the VA is establishing the first of approximately 80 "store front" readjustment counseling centers that will be set up around the country. Each center will have a four-member team composed of a leader who is a professional psychologist or sociologist, two "street-smart" people and a clerk. This effort will be peer-group oriented, employing people who relate well to others.
This special program for Vietnam veterans is a step forward in meeting the special needs of Vietnam veterans. The public, according to the Louis Harris poll, regrets the war in Vietnam but still supports the soldier who fought there and realizes his need for special attention.
We in this country have not lost our sense of obligation to those who have served in our most recent war. And on a day like today when we think of all those who have gone before us we reaffirm our commitment and our respect for all of our veterans from all of our wars.