I was issued Vietnam veteran automobile plates because my six years (1962-1968) of service fell within the dates of the Vietnam War. Two years later, I was summoned to the tag agency and forced to surrender my tags because they said where I served during that war didn’t qualify me as a Vietnam veteran.
In Tennessee there are strict rules for being called a veteran of that war. The law reads: “A Southeast Asia campaign medal shall have been awarded in order to obtain the Vietnam veteran tag. To receive the award, a service member must be attached to or regularly serving for one or more days with an organization participating in ground/shore military operations; attached to or regularly serving for one or more days aboard a naval vessel directly supporting military operations; actually participating as a crew member in one or more aerial flights directly supporting military operations in the areas designated; or serving on temporary duty for 30 consecutive days or 60 nonconsecutive days, except, if a waiver is authorized for personnel participating in actual combat.
“For those service members who performed ‘home service,’ such as support personnel in the United States, the Southwest Asia service medal is not authorized.”
The Vietnam Veterans of America and the Department of Veterans Affairs consider all who served during that time as Vietnam era veterans, regardless of whether they served in-country. Tennessee officials say they don’t care — this is Tennessee law and that supersedes federal law.
Many of us have felt some guilt over not being on bloody soil while doing our part. America, via the state of Tennessee, continues to show disrespect for Vietnam veterans.
HERBERT D. ZEIGLER JR.