On the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, a national initiative aims to make sure veterans from that era are never forgotten. 

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, which was authorized by Congress in 2008, is conducting events and activities across the country this year to honor those who served in a deeply divisive war that left a generation of warfighters without the proper recognition they deserved.

One part of the initiative is to honor vets who served between Nov. 1, 1955, and May 15, 1975, with a commemorative Vietnam Veteran lapel pin.

On Thursday, retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey received one of those pins during a brief ceremony in the Military Times office outside Washington, D.C.

McCaffrey, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, said the pin honoring his fellow veterans reinforces the importance of supporting America's men and women in uniform, regardless of politics.

"You may have different political views, but you can honor the soldier who fought without necessarily endorsing the outcome of the conflict," the four-star general told Army Times on Thursday. 

That's happened over time, he said, and Vietnam was a turning point that led to almost overwhelming support for today's generation of service members. It's also why the pin has tremendous significance. 

Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, (Ret.) left, is pinned with the Vietnam Veteran lapel pin by MSgt Rob Wilkins (USAF Ret.), Military Evangelist for HistoryNet, The Military Times, and Defense News publications, during a visit at Sightline Media Group in Vienna, Va., on Thursday, November 10, 2016. General McCaffrey served in the United States Army for 32 years. When he retired in 1996, he was the most decorated General serving in the United States Army, having been awarded 3 Purple Heart Medals for wounds received in combat, 2 Distinguished Service Crosses (the nation’s second highest award for valor), and 2 Silver Stars for valor. He served overseas for more than 12 years ---and 4 combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division, the Vietnamese Airborne Division, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division. General McCaffrey served as the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), under President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 2001. General McCaffrey is currently on the board of advisors for Vietnam magazine. (Alan Lessig/Staff)
Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, (Ret.) left, is pinned with the Vietnam Veteran lapel pin by MSgt Rob Wilkins (USAF Ret.), Military Evangelist for HistoryNet, The Military Times, and Defense News publications, during a visit at Sightline Media Group in Vienna, Va., on Thursday, November 10, 2016. General McCaffrey served in the United States Army for 32 years. When he retired in 1996, he was the most decorated General serving in the United States Army, having been awarded 3 Purple Heart Medals for wounds received in combat, 2 Distinguished Service Crosses (the nation’s second highest award for valor), and 2 Silver Stars for valor. He served overseas for more than 12 years ---and 4 combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division, the Vietnamese Airborne Division, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division. General McCaffrey served as the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), under President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 2001. General McCaffrey is currently on the board of advisors for Vietnam magazine. (Alan Lessig/Staff)

Retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey received the Vietnam Veteran lapel pin Thursday during a visit to Military Times' office.

Photo Credit: Alan Lessig / Staff

McCaffrey said Arlington National Cemetery is the traditional place to visit on Veterans Day, but there will be thousands convening at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. on Friday.

"[The Vietnam War] changed the way people grieve over tragedies," he said, adding that people leaving flowers and mementos at memorials started with the Vietnam wall.

McCaffrey, who retired in 1996 after 32 years of service, was the most highly decorated Army general serving at the time of his retirement. He earned two Distinguished Service Crosses, which are second only to the Medal of Honor, and two Silver Stars, the nation's third-highest award for valor. He also is a two-time Purple Heart recipient. McCaffrey served four combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division, the Vietnamese Airborne Division, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division.

McCaffrey also served as the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 2001. 



Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.