U.S. President Donald Trump marked his first Veterans Day in office by meeting with several veterans in Danang, where the first U.S. conventional troops landed during the Vietnam War more than 50 years ago.
"One of my great honors is to represent the people standing right behind me -- great, great warriors and veterans of the Vietnam War," Trump said in the meeting at the Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa.
"To each of you with me today, you are the heroes who fulfilled your duty to our nation. And each of you, under the most difficult conditions, did what you had to do, and you did it well," the president said. He was attending an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Danang following stops on his Asian tour in Japan, South Korea and China.
Trump, who had five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, signed a proclamation honoring Vietnam veterans and said, "I just want to thank these seven very brave people for being here."
"I got to know them for a few minutes upfront, and they are definitely tough, smart cookies. We like them. I think they like me too," he said, joking that, "I'm not sure" but "I think they do. I think they do. I think they see what we're doing for our military."
Trump then asked the veterans, from a group called the Greatest Generation Foundation, to speak. One of them, Max Morgan of Santa Clarita, California, became emotional as he recalled the fallen, and Trump reached out to hug him.
"From my heart, thank you for your support of the military, and it's an honor to be here as one of seven Vietnam veterans representing the 58,000 heroes who never made it home," Morgan said.
Trump also touted his efforts to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs by making health care more available in the private sector under the Choice program, and by requiring more accountability from VA employees.
"Our veterans are a national treasure, and I thank them all for their service, sacrifice and patriotism," he said. "My administration, as you all know, is committed to rebuilding our military and honoring the hard work and sacrifices of all veterans.
"We're extremely proud of what we've done" at the VA, Trump said.
He said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin "has done an amazing job with Choice and accountability and so many other things that we are doing and in the process of doing. It is a whole different ballgame" at the VA.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.