Sailors and Marines packed the aft mess decks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Aug. 29, to honor and remember fellow service members, past and present, during a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution’s passage, which marked the beginning of the Vietnam War.
The ceremony not only highlighted the sacrifice and commitment of Vietnam veterans but also recognized and honored the prisoners of war (POW) and those missing in action (MIA), who never made it home.
During the ceremony, guest speaker Chief Hospital Corpsman Alexis Alvarado, discussed the significant achievements of many Vietnam veterans while drawing attention to the sacrifice of those veterans who may not have achieved fame.
“Of the millions of Americans who served on active duty in the US armed forces during the Vietnam era, many were or went on to become famous in diverse fields such as politics, entertainment, sports and journalism,” said Alvarado. “We can name countless celebrities, but let us not forget those heroes who didn’t make it to the cover of People magazine or the “famous A-list.”
Heroes like Hospital Corpsman Third Class Maurice Caron Wayne, who rendered first aid to multiple Marines and saved three lives despite being struck numerous times by enemy rounds.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Office, more than 58,000 U.S. service members were killed during the war that took place between 1955 and 1975 and more than 1,600 are still missing.
“Hero is a word sometimes heedlessly thrown about by the media. This carelessness depreciates the value of the word hero. Today, we revere and honor that word, and pay homage to those who went before us, to serve as the champions of freedom and democracy around the world.”
During the ceremony, Chief Logistics Specialist (select) Ahnas Akande gave a presentation on the meaning POW/MIA, which is displayed in all the mess decks and wardrooms aboard Theodore Roosevelt.
“The table before you is a place of honor. It is set for one,” said Akande. “This table is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POW’s or MIA’s. We call them brothers. They are unable to be with us this evening and so we remember them,” said Akande, during the presentation.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Adjon-Alber Watkins, who attended the ceremony, said that he thought the ceremony was inspiring and that he thought it was very important that we honor and remember the sacrifices of fellow service members from the Vietnam War because it reminds him of why he joined the service.
“Remembering the sacrifice of those service members reminds me of a verse ‘There is no greater love than this: that a man lay down his life for his friend.’ John 15:13. This verse constantly reminds me not to be selfish and that my service to my country is about something larger then myself.”
Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the TRCSG, which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 90) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).
Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.