On Friday, President Donald Trump was joined by First Lady Melania Trump at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Da Nang, Vietnam, where they greeted veterans of the Vietnam War. He expressed the gratitude of the people of the United States for their service. According to a White House statement, the president "reaffirmed his commitment to honor the sacrifice of all Veterans and rebuild our military." After his remarks, Trump signed a proclamation to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War as part of an ongoing 13-year commemoration of their sacrifice for freedom. “Our veterans are a national treasure, and I thank them all for their service, sacrifice, and patriotism. To each of you with me today, you are the heroes who fulfill your duty to our nation. And each of you, under the most difficult conditions, did what you had to do, and you did it well,” Trump said.
During the midst of the conflict in the 1960s, Da Nang was home to a joint military air base that averaged more than 2,500 flights daily: more than any other in the world at the time. It fell to communist forces in March 1975.
Here follows a transcript provided by the White House:
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Hello, everybody. And I assume that by now you're pretty exhausted. The media must be absolutely exhausted, looking to go home.
But we have had a tremendous time. And we're in Vietnam tomorrow, we go to the Philippines, and then back to the United States. We'll be landing in Washington. And I think we've had a tremendous period of time, starting in Japan, going to South Korea, going to China.
Last night's celebration in China was something, the likes of which few people have ever seen before. So we've had a very exciting time.
I'm very honored to be representing our country, and I will say that, when you speak of honors, one of my great honors is to present the people standing right behind me -- great, great warriors and veterans of the Vietnam War.
Our veterans are a national treasure, and I thank them all for their service, sacrifice, and patriotism.
To each of you with me today, you are the heroes who fulfill your duty to our nation. And each of you, under the most difficult conditions, did what you had to do, and you did it well.
My administration, as you all know, is committed to rebuilding our military and honoring the hard work and sacrifices of all veterans. We're extremely proud of what we've done with the Veterans Administration. Dr. Shulkin has done an amazing job with choice and accountability and so many other things that we are doing and in the process of doing. The Veterans Administration is a whole different place.
Our accountability efforts in Vietnam are very, very important to all of us. We will not rest until all of the 1,253 missing veterans are returned home. I want to thank the government of Vietnam for their assistance in our efforts.
Today, I'm signing a proclamation to honor the veterans of the Vietnam War. This is part of the ongoing 13-year commemoration of their sacrifice for freedom. And I just want to thank these seven very brave people for being here. I got to know them for a few minutes upfront, and they are definitely tough, smart cookies. We like them. I think they like me too. I'm not sure, but I think -- (applause) -- no, I think they do. I think they do. I think they see what we're doing for our military.
Would you like to say a few words, any of you guys? Would you like to say something? Huh?
MR. HOPPER: Sure.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Come on. Come on up here. Here's your chance. You can be a big star now.
MR. HOPPER: Well, I'm not sure about that. But just on behalf of many of us standing up in the front of the room today, I just want to say what an honor and privilege it is to be with our President. I so admire what you're doing for our country.
Thank you for your dedication to our military, our country. And we're all behind you in making America great again.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. That's so nice. Thank you very much.
MR. HOPPER: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. REYNOLDS: It's an honor to be here. My family is so proud. My wife loves you. (Laughter.) She does. We all love you.
All of the veterans that I represent in my community asked me to say to you: Keep doing what you're doing. We need to win. We need to make America great again. And we definitely think you are on the right track. So, thank you. It's honor to meet you, sir.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We will keep it going, and we will get it done.
MR. REYNOLDS: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No doubt.
MR. REYNOLDS: I believe it. Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Anybody?
MR. MORGAN: Mr. President, from my heart, thank you for your support of the military, and it's an honor to be here as one of seven Vietnam veterans representing the 58,000 heroes who never made it home.
Thank you so much.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you so much. (Applause.)
MR. MORGAN: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You nervous?
MR. GOODE: I am nervous.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't think so. I don't think so.
MR. GOODE: I am nervous.
You know, it's an honor for me to be here today to meet the President of the United States that's doing such a fine job for America. I'm so proud of him and what he's doing, and I'm also really proud to represent all those veterans that are back home to be one of seven of these veterans that are here today. It's such an honor to represent the rest of those veterans in the United States of America.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I just want to thank everybody. These are special, special people. And just in speaking to them, before I came up -- they were so warm and so loving of our country -- I said, "Hey, would you like to say a few words?" And they said them better than anybody can say them.
They're brave, they're strong, they're great patriots. And we just want to thank you and all of the thousands and thousands and all of the people that served with you and in all of the other wars.
And, you know, one of the things, again, that I'm so happy with is what we're doing with the whole Veterans Administration. It is a whole different ballgame.
And I'm going to sign a proclamation, and I'll sign it with one pen, but we're going to make sure we have seven pens. And we're going to get you each one. But it's an important proclamation, and we'll do it right now.
Thank you all. You have done a fantastic job. I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
So this is the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War by the President of the United States of America. It's a proclamation. And thank you very much.
(The proclamation is signed.)
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.