In a ceremony recognizing all employees for their military service, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue formally offered a measure of closure to a group of Vietnam War-era veterans still serving in the USDA ranks. The secretary also observed the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918, with a wreath-laying in memory of the 69 USDA employees who perished during that conflict.
“We need to do the right thing for a generation that bore the heavy toll of war, yet served with honor. And the healing begins by a heartfelt, welcome home,” Perdue said. “As a veteran who served during those times, I understand the challenges you faced when you returned. But today I join countless Americans who are forever grateful for your valor and commitment to our nation.”
Perdue served as an Air Force Captain from 1971-1974. He is among approximately 2,200 current USDA employees who are Vietnam War veterans.
“It is also fitting that on Veterans Day 2018 we acknowledge our indebtedness to sacrifices by a generation whose voice is forever silent,” Perdue said. “When the United States entered WWI nearly 3,000 USDA men and women enlisted. We pause to remember our 69 gallant coworkers who volunteered during a time of crisis, and gave all.”
At the ceremony, Perdue was joined by Larry M. Brom of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, and Edwin Fountain of the United States World War I Centennial Commission, along with VADM Norbert Ryan, USN, Ret., of the Spectrum Group, and USDA veterans both in Washington, and via a livestream broadcast.
Established by presidential proclamation in 2012, the United States Vietnam War Commemoration recognizes the nine million Americans, approximately 7 million living today, who served on active duty from November 1, 1955 through May 15, 1975. As of September 2018, more than 14,000 recognition ceremonies have taken place around the country in partnership with local, state and national organizations.
The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission was created by an Act of Congress in 2013 to educate Americans about the war, honor those who served; and commemorate the centennial through public programs and initiatives. The Commission also brings attention to the thousands of World War I memorials in communities across the country. One of these memorials stands in the USDA’s headquarters, the result of a fundraising effort by USDA employees to honor their fallen colleagues.
USDA is proud to support veterans through employment, education, and entrepreneurship. According to USDA’s Economic Research Service, rural veterans find themselves in a better employment position today than they did in the years following the Great Recession. The unemployment rate for rural veterans has declined since peaking at 10.3 percent in 2010. In 2017, it stood at 4.6 percent, its lowest rate in the last decade. The unemployment rate for young rural veterans (ages 18 to 34) has seen a large decline too — from a high of 15.7 percent in 2009 to 7.1 percent in 2017.