October 31, 2012
Representatives from the Department of Defense met with Chancellor Kent Hance on their visit to Texas Tech.
When American Veterans returned home from the battlefields of World War II and the Korean War, they received a hero’s welcome from a grateful nation. The same cannot be said for those who served in Vietnam.
Therefore on the war’s 50th anniversary, the United States Department of Defense(DoD) is determined to right that wrong, and has chosen Texas Tech University to be the first university commemorative partner in the effort to honor Vietnam veterans.
“These veterans, in most cases, were not properly thanked or honored when they returned home,” said Lt. Gen. Mick Kicklighter, U.S. Army (Ret.) and director of the DoD Office of Commemorations. “They should have been thanked for their valor and service, and sacrifice. They did their duty and more.”
The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is the official title given to the program in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. It states that the Secretary of Defense will coordinate, support and facilitate other programs and activities of the federal government, state and local governments and other organizations in commemorations of the Vietnam War.
The Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive is the largest collection of such materials outside the National Archive system. Under the direction of Stephen Maxner, it is the center’s mission to collect and preserve the documentary record of the Vietnam War, and to encourage research and education regarding all aspects of the American Vietnam experience.
“We have been working with the Office of Commemorations since late 2009,” Maxner said. “Given their knowledge of and the established reputation of the Vietnam Center and Archive in Washington D.C. and at the DoD, we were at the top of their list as potential partners.”
The Vietnam Center and Archive has worked with the Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office, Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the various DoD military branch archives, and various circles regarding Vietnam War Studies. Maxner first met with Kicklighter at his office in Washington D.C. in Spring 2012, and he was subsequently invited to represent the Vietnam Center and Archive at the National Memorial Day Event, hosted by Secretary Leon Panetta and President Obama, which was also the official launch of the Commemoration Program.
“We are proud that Texas Tech is the first university in the nation to be chosen as a partner in this effort,” said Kent Hance, chancellor of the Texas Tech University System. “This is an outstanding opportunity to build on our efforts to honor Vietnam veterans and we are grateful to be a part of this mission.”
The Commemoration will, among other things, thank and honor the veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation, including personnel held as Prisoners of War or listed as Missing in Action.
This certificate signed by the Secretary of Defense was one of the many items presented to Texas Tech by Kicklighter.
“We want to make sure we do everything we can to help our nation honor its commitment to the fullest accounting for those who did not come home,” Kicklighter said. “Families are still waiting and have been waiting a long time.”
Kicklighter recently visited Texas Tech to deliver the formal partnership invitation and to present the university with a commemorative flag, a certificate signed by the Secretary of Defense, and an official seal. He was joined by Col. Mark Franklin, U.S. Army (Ret.) and chief of History and Education, for the DoD Office of Commemorations.
“We will be working very, very closely with the Vietnam Center to help develop educational materials and the kinds of information we want to convey to the public and the school systems,” Franklin said. “We want to reach out to three audiences: the public, we want to reach the school systems public and private, grades 7 through 12; and the academic and university level.”
Commemorative events began Memorial Day 2012 and will continue for 13 years through Veterans Day 2025, mirroring the length of America’s longest war.
“It's such a wonderful synergy and ability for us to build on what we've already started,” Maxner said. “We're tremendously honored to be the first university partner with the DoD Commemorations Office in their 50th anniversary commemoration program.”
Founded in 1989, the Texas Tech Vietnam Center and Archive houses the largest collection
of materials related to the Vietnam conflict outside of the U.S. National Archives.
Its mission is to support and encourage research and education regarding all aspects
of the American Vietnam experience.
In 2017, the archive was renamed the Sam Johnson Vietnam Archive to honor U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, a former prisoner of war who worked as an advocate for troops and veterans following his 29-year career in the U.S. Air Force.
The mission of the Archive of Modern American Warfare is to encourage, promote, support and enhance the long term study and preservation of all aspects of America's diplomatic and military experiences and involvements on a global scale, beginning in 1975 and continuing to the present. Through this, the Archive strives to help researchers develop a better understanding of America’s modern military experiences.