They Lead

Remembering And Celebrating Vietnam Veterans

Kathryn Maloney

Commander Brian Wierzbicki is the Chief of Public Engagement at the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, whose mission is to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.

Wierzbicki enlisted in the Navy in 1991 after graduating high school, largely because he knew he wasn’t ready for college and that the services provided great resources for him to pursue his college degree later. It only took one enlistment for Wierzbicki to be hooked for life.

“I was on my first enlistment and really fell in love with just being in the service, being in the Navy and serving my country,” Wierzbicki said. “I wouldn't trade any of it for anything else.”

Wierzbicki reenlisted and served a few more years as a sailor before gaining interest in becoming an officer. He applied for the Seaman Admiral program, and ultimately commissioned and received his degree. While stationed in Tennessee in 2008, Wierzbicki applied for an officer position in the public affairs community, and he has been a public affairs officer ever since. Originally, he planned to retire after 30 years, but when Wierzbicki was offered a job with the Vietnam War Commemoration, he knew he wasn’t ready to give up all the fun just yet.

“The Vietnam War Commemoration is just a fantastic way to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and to tell their stories, but also share what we've learned from the Vietnam War period with the rest of the world,” Wierzbicki said. “Because they really need to know why their service and sacrifice mattered so much to where we're at today.”

With retirement on the back burner, Wierzbicki has been granted the freedom to run his own program. Most of his staff are retired service members from different services, but the simple mission of honoring and thanking Vietnam veterans and their families really appealed to Wierzbicki and was one of the reasons he took this position.

“I've never been in a command where the mission is very simple,” Wierzbicki said. “But everybody just embraces it and gets behind it 100 percent.” 

Every year on March 29 — declared by former President Donald Trump as National Vietnam War Veterans Day — several different ceremonies and events are held to honor the Vietnam veterans and their families. As a yearly tradition, Wierzbicki hopes this powerful and solemn ceremony will eventually carry on beyond the scope of the commemoration — he also wants to encourage other organizations who are associated with them to do similar ceremonies. 

In addition to National Vietnam War Veterans Day, a three-day nationwide ceremony on May 11-13 will be held at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The ceremony, Welcome Home, is to celebrate the service and sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans with events, historical displays and walkthroughs, exclusive experiences for veterans, and much more. With this, beautiful moments will likely be had, and it’s all thanks to people like Wierzbicki.

Photo credit(s): Courtesy of Cmdr. Brian Wierzbicki