David Lauderdale

Lauderdale: Vietnam veteran ‘thank you’ goes viral from Bluffton

Bonnie Wade Mucia
Bonnie Wade Mucia Submitted

Vietnam was many years ago, and also just yesterday.

Only a veteran of America’s unpopular war of a half century ago could say that.

And that’s exactly how one responded to a Bluffton woman who has taken it upon herself to get a personal letter of thanks into the hands of every living Vietnam veteran.

By me thanking these men, I get to thank my dad.

Bonnie Wade Mucia

Bonnie Wade Mucia has sent thousands of letters, but it’s one she got in return that chokes her up. It mentions her father, the drive behind her drive. Her dad served two tours in Vietnam and got home with a Purple Heart, but he died unexpectedly at 43.

“I could have met your father,” writes an aging Marine.

“We did travel the same rice paddies, villages and jungle. Watching men die, and how they die, affects even the toughest Marines. It does change your life forever.

“Vietnam was many years ago, and also just yesterday. We all have our burdens to bear. Thank you for making mine more bearable.”

Mucia’s life has been a blur since she organized Bluffton’s official “thank you” party for Vietnam vets a year ago. That was part of a national effort sponsored in part by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mucia is in the local Emily Geiger chapter, and her volunteer work for the Vietnam vets has won a statewide DAR award.

“Just because of that one event, it’s amazing how big it has gotten,” Mucia said.

Since then, she has founded a nonprofit called Dear Vietnam Vet to get a letter to each veteran. She got a logo created and trademarked. The all-volunteer organization has a web site, Facebook page, and Twitter and Instagram accounts to help find vets who need thanks, and people willing to say “thank you.”

“The Vietnam War was long, expensive, and unpopular,” the web site says. “Veterans returning home weren’t celebrated; they weren’t even thanked for their service. We believe it’s long past time to do so.”

The organization is trying to help new generations appreciate Vietnam veterans by sponsoring a college scholarship, this year a $500 offer to a Bluffton High School student. To qualify, the student must meet a Vietnam vet, interview him or her, register the interview with the Library of Congress, and write a letter of personal thanks.

Mucia is working with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Jimmie Leach Chapter in Beaufort to get local businesses to designate a parking space for combat-wounded veterans.

And she’s gearing up for June when her father will be inducted into the “In Memory” program of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, builders of “The Wall.” This is a way of honoring veterans whose names are not on the wall, but whose lives were cut short as a result of their service in Vietnam.

Mostly, Mucia has been hustling around trying to get letters written and distributed. She has printed cards, accosted strangers, worked with fraternities and civic groups, and given a lot of speeches.

Sometimes veterans who write back say they are amazed that anyone her age remembers a war that even they tried to forget.

“By me thanking these men, I get to thank my dad,” Mucia said. “But the veterans who need it get the thanks.”

David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale

How to participate

Send letters: Letters may be sent to Dear Vietnam Vet, P.O. Box 1383, Bluffton, SC 29910; or by email to dearvietnamvet@gmail.comdearvietnamvet@gmail.com.

Register a vet: Tell Dear Vietnam Vet about a veteran by filling out a form at its website: dearvietnamvet.com.

More information: dearvietnamvet.com.

Facebook: Dear Vietnam Vet.