The National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM) is located in Columbus Ohio, on the banks of the Scioto River. Their mission is simple: “To honor and positively impact the lives of veterans, their families, and our communities through sharing the veteran experience.” As part of that mission, the NVMM hosted a National Vietnam Veterans Day Welcome Home Ceremony on March 29, 2023, with keynote speaker, Naval aviator Captain Charlie Plumb. A procession of all the Vietnam veterans in attendance began the ceremony to be properly welcomed home and recognized for bravely serving their country.
President and CEO of the NVMM, Lt. General Michael Ferriter US Army (Ret.), gave opening remarks and introduced Captain Plumb who began his speech by simply taking 3 paces, doing an about-face, and doing three paces back the way he came. As his steps echoed through the hall, it was clear Captain Plumb was pacing the 8x8 cell in northern Vietnam where he spent six years as a POW.
Despite the small confines, the torture, the injuries from ejecting from his fighter jet, and the shame he felt surrendering to his captures, Captain Plumb soon figured out that his own mind would be the prison he needed to escape. The conditions were awful, and hope was fading quickly - to survive this he needed to reconcile the circumstances of his capture. That meant realizing his own decisions and actions led him to this 8x8 cell inside Vietnam. With the assistance of a fellow American POW, he was introduced to the camp “radio station” - a system created by earlier prisoners in order to communicate with one another. Through this system, each POW had a role, and a purpose and Captain Plumb began to free his mind.
With this new clarity, Captain Plumb began thinking about how grateful he was for the enlisted man who packed his parachute. He’d not given it much thought until he needed it on his 75th combat mission in Vietnam. Throughout his speech, Captain Plumb gave countless examples of how much he and his fellow veterans were helped by one another and also by their family members, friends, and caretakers. In the prison camp, Captain Plumb and his fellow POWs worked together to overcome the harsh realities of war and captivity and continued their honorable service in their new environment.
Captain Plumb’s speech was compelling, sobering, motivating, and even had a little humor. His experience and perspective of some of the harshest realities of war conjured a full spectrum of emotions. Captain Plumb encouraged everyone to take accountability but to also recognize that we all have help when it comes to packing our parachutes.
"I have a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for the veterans of the Vietnam War. I was humbled to be in the presence of such incredible veterans, and I am glad they received the recognition they deserved for serving their country.” Chris Barrett, Marine Corps veteran.
Check out the recap on the Paramount VetNet YouTube Chanel.
Visit the National Veterans Memorial and Museum website to learn more and see all the upcoming events.