Watch CBS News

Vietnam War Veterans Mark Somber Anniversary On Long Island: 'We Are Forgotten A Lot ... Because We Didn't Win, Supposedly'

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Veterans of the Vietnam War gathered Wednesday on an important date in that conflict's history.

A ceremony was held in Nassau County, which has one of the highest veteran populations in the nation.

Feb. 24 marks a somber anniversary. It's not a date you may recognize, but it's one that lives in the minds of those who gathered at the Museum of American Armor in Bethpage.

Among them was Bob Inslee, who was a boy when his teenage brother was killed in Vietnam.

"I'll never forget that day when a car pulled up in front of the house. I think when the enemy took him, it also killed my family. My family never recovered from this," Inslee told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff.

Vietnam-era tanks paraded to recall this day in 1968, when the bloody conflict took a grim turn.

North Vietnam launched a surprise attack on more than 100 locations. The Tet Offensive was a psychological blow to a divided nation as tens of thousands of young Americans were sent a world away.

Bob Selby was among them.

"Fifty-eight thousand four hundred and seventy-nine young Americans died before their time, before they ever had a chance to live. Who knew whether we would have another year to come home to your parents?" Selby said.

"We are forgotten a lot, just like the Korean War veterans, because we didn't win, supposedly, but we won every major battle that we were fought in. It just went on and on and on until there was no political solution. We left," veteran George Swantek said.

They would return to endure decades of shame, illness and post-traumatic stress that still plague many Vietnam veterans.

"When those men came home from Vietnam, they got nowhere near the credit they deserved, so they are the quiet heroes, and it would really be a shame and a disgrace if the country didn't honor them at every opportunity we get," former Congressman Peter King said.

Feb. 24 would mark the dark realization that the war may not be winnable. In fact, it was CBS's trusted Walter Cronkite who would famously predict the war would end in stalemate.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.