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Michigan honors Vietnam War-era veterans

Michigan will recognize its veterans who served in the Vietnam War era with a special certificate program developed by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Michigan Vietnam Veteran Recognition Certificate honors a generation of veterans — both alive and deceased — who were treated poorly by many fellow citizens for serving in an unpopular war and who found VA benefits lacking when they returned home in the 1960s and ’70s.

More than 400,000 Michigan servicemen and women served during the Vietnam War era. A total of 2,651 Michigan service members lost their lives in the war.

“The Michigan Vietnam Veteran Recognition Certificate honors our Vietnam War-era veterans for their service,” Whitmer said. “On behalf of the State of Michigan, I want to let our Vietnam veterans and their families know that we have their backs. This new certificate ensures that these veterans, many who were mistreated and received insufficient VA benefits when they returned home, get the recognition they earned for serving our nation in uniform. Let’s keep working together to make sure that all of our veterans are welcomed home and can get the care and benefits they need to thrive.”

The certificate is available to those who served during the Vietnam War era (Feb. 28, 1961—May 7, 1975); were honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances; and are citizens of Michigan or were citizens of the state while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces (Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps or Navy, including the Michigan National Guard and Reserve components).

The certificate also includes an option of a special designation recognizing individuals who were exposed to Agent Orange during their service. To receive this designation, the service member must have been exposed to dioxin or phenoxy herbicides, as evidenced by a medical diagnosis of a disease associated with dioxin or phenoxy herbicides.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) is facilitating the certificate program. MVAA Director Adam Hollier said the certificate is available to living Vietnam veterans and to the families or designated representatives of deceased Vietnam veterans.
Veterans or their representatives can submit their information for a certificate at

“The hundreds of thousands of service members from Michigan who served in Vietnam were not properly recognized and this certificate program aims to remedy that,” Hollier said. “Whether you’re a Vietnam veteran or the spouse, child or designated representative of a Vietnam veteran, we are excited to officially honor your service to this nation and to get you connected to the benefits you earned for your service.”

According to VA projections, there were 191,632 Vietnam War-era veterans living in Michigan in 2020, making it the largest veteran population of any era.

One of those Vietnam veterans is David Mester, who played a key role in getting the legislation for the Michigan Vietnam Veteran Recognition Certificate passed. Mester, a Marine Corps veteran from Livingston County, received the first certificate on Aug. 1 in recognition of his service in the Vietnam War and his exposure to Agent Orange. The certificate is signed by Gov. Whitmer and Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, Michigan’s adjutant general.

“The Vietnam veterans’ Agent Orange certificate recognizes veterans affected by Agent Orange and provides closure to widows and families who lost loved ones from this deadly defoliant,” Mester said.