COLUMBIA, S.C. – On Tuesday, November 9, 2021 Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette and State Attorney General Alan Wilson joined The South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs (SCDVA), Vietnam POW (Prisoner of War) Reunion Foundation Chair Brenda Stewart, and former POWs for a press conference to announce upcoming 49th POW Reunion Gala.
SCDVA is proud to partner with the chair of the Vietnam POW Reunion Foundation to bring dozens of former Vietnam POWs from around the nation to the state of South Carolina in June of 2022. The National Organization of Former Vietnam POWs includes men who served in the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army. These Veterans averaged more than five years of torture and inhumane treatment as POWs. As of July 2021, only 407 remain alive out of the original 662 military POWs. Eight of these men live in South Carolina. The foundation serves two purposes – to honor the Vietnam POWs by hosting their reunion and to preserve their stories for future generations.
"South Carolina is one of the most military-friendly in the nation," says Lt. Governor Evette. “We continue to grow our strong Veteran-presence in South Carolina, because our rich tradition in ensuring all Veterans are honored and receive the treatment and quality of life they deserve in our state.”
SCDVA Secretary Will Grimsley says the Palmetto State is thankful to the NAM-POW board to anchor next year’s distinguished event. “South Carolina is humbled and honored to host these brave men and their families to our great State. They willingly put themselves in harm’s way in combat and endured enormous hardship in captivity. The combination of courage and resilience from 50+ years ago continues to inspire us today. Welcome home and welcome to South Carolina!”
Greenville Mayor Knox White says the City of Greenville will “Roll out the red carpet for Vietnam POW Veterans and their families to honor them for their selfless sacrifices for our State and Nation. Greenville has made it a priority to work with strong Veteran Service Organizations to ensure a standard of excellence is set for the welfare and well-being of all Veterans."
Brenda Stewart, whose father is a Vietnam War Veteran, established the Vietnam POW Reunion Foundation in March of 2020 with the goal of bringing the NAM-POW group (surviving POWs) to Greenville, South Carolina for one of their freedom reunions. In June 2021 the NAM-POW board and its members voted to accept the invitation. Their 49th Annual Freedom Reunion will be held in Greenville, June 1-5, in 2022.
“We are honored that the Vietnam POWs chose our state to hold their 49th reunion. South Carolina will have a chance to show its appreciation for the tremendous sacrifice these men made while serving our country. Their courageous and unyielding commitment to America under unimaginable conditions is an inspiration to us all,” said Stewart. “I want to thank Governor Henry McMaster, Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, Attorney General Alan Wilson, Secretary Will Grimsley, and the sponsors for their commitment and support to the Vietnam POWs and their reunion. We are overwhelmed by the support and encouragement from the business community and citizens of South Carolina."
After the news conference, a member of the Vietnam POW Reunion Foundation hosted a luncheon in which Lt. Governor Evette, SCDVA Secretary Will Grimsley, Attorney General Alan Wilson and Mayor White attended at the Palmetto Club. State leaders had the opportunity to speak directly with the POWs and learn more of why it is important to honor them with this reunion.