Garrison Commander Col. John 'Wes' Hankins presents Navy veteran Perry Riley with a Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin March 29 at the Fort Jackson Exchange. (Josephine Carlson)

By Josie Carlson                                                                                                                                                                                    Fort Jackson Public Affairs

Fort Jackson and the Army & Air Force Exchange Services honored Vietnam veterans March 29 by hosting a ceremony and giving out Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pins at the Exchange.

Any living veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location, is eligible to receive a pin.

The Vietnam War Veterans Act of 2017 designated March 29 as National Vietnam War Veterans Day because it was the day United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disbanded and the last U.S. combat troops departed that country.

Garrison Commander Col. John “Wes” Hankins and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Algrish Williams both attended the ceremony.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be able recognize all of our Vietnam veterans and those who served in defense of our nation during a very difficult time for our country,” Hankins said.

“One of the reasons we want to recognize you is because upon conclusion of the war when we returned home, a lot of our troops were blamed for a war they didn’t even start,” he added. “They were drafted, asked to go … they were placed into combat and should have been commended for serving your country with honor.”

Hankins thanked AAFES General Manager Thomas Kuttamperoor for allowing them to thank Vietnam veterans in a small way, as he offered a lapel pin to Perry Riley, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Navy. AAFES presented many pins throughout the day to Vietnam veterans who came to the store.

On one side, the pin shows an eagle, representing courage, honor and dedicated service to our nation. It’s surrounded by a blue circle and laurel wreath. Six stars to the left of the eagle represent the allies who served alongside one another: Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and the United States.

On the back of the pin is the message “A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

Anyone who would like more information about National Vietnam War Veterans Day or would like to know how to receive a lapel pin can visit