A crowd of veterans and supporters braved a steady rain Saturday morning to honor the casualties of the Vietnam War at Long Island National Cemetery.
Pat Yngstrom, a former airborne soldier who served near the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam, urged the roughly 200 attendees at the ceremony near Farmingdale to remember the tens of thousands of U.S. service members who perished during a war so controversial that many Americans refused to welcome home returning troops.
“Even in the rain, this is a tribute that we didn’t get when we got home from the war,” said Yngstrom, 66, of North Merrick. “It took a long time for our country to respect us, but now it’s wonderful to walk down the street and get cheered.”
More than 58,200 Americans officially are listed among the nation’s Vietnam War dead.
The outdoor event, which had been scheduled to last two hours but was cut to less than 20 minutes by the chilly downpour, was one of a number of ceremonies planned for the next several weeks to honor Vietnam War veterans.
The commemorations, which began this year on March 28, flow from a 2012 presidential proclamation extending special recognition for Vietnam veterans through Veterans Day 2025.
Many of the attendees at Long Island National Cemetery said it was important for them to honor the men and women who fought in what was a politically unpopular war, and who returned to an American society that often blamed them personally.
“It’s sad that it took this long, but I’m happy to witness the public’s appreciation for their service,” said Rich Brennan, 53, a Navy veteran who was among several members of patriotic motorcycle clubs who attended. “I have a soft spot in my heart for Vietnam veterans because they got such a bad rap. A lot of these guys had no choice but to go, and it left them with a lot of scars.”
Morris Miller, 68, a former Army sergeant who served with an artillery unit during some of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest fighting, also addressed the gathering.
“This is about comradeship, about remembering,” Miller said. “This is about being with our brothers and sisters. This is about the feeling of watching out for them like we did when we were there.”