It has become customary when one meets veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to thank them for their service.
There will be more than 800 opportunities to do just that this week with the 16th National Convention of the Vietnam Veterans of America filling Downtown hotels with delegates from across the country.
"This is the largest convention the VVA has ever had," said Pat Toro, a member of the organization's national board of directors and the 2013 Convention Committee chair.
Veterans, spouses and guests began arriving Monday for the convention, which continues through Saturday.
While in Jacksonville, members will elect a new slate of officers and vote on organization constitutional amendments. Committee hearings on topics such as POW/MIA issues, Agent Orange and Dioxin, post-traumatic stress disorder, disabled veterans and homeless veterans are scheduled.
A Veteran's Mall is set up on the third floor at the Hyatt, the host hotel for the convention. The trade show offers military souvenirs and information relative to veteran's issues. It's open to the public from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through Saturday, said Toro.
Also open to the public, a remembrance ceremony for prisoners of war and those missing in action is scheduled at 7 a.m. Friday at the Hyatt.
As of Aug. 9, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office lists 1,645 as missing from the Vietnam War: 1,276 in Vietnam, 309 in Laos, 53 in Cambodia and 7 in China.
In addition to business meetings and ceremonies honoring fallen heroes, Toro said there's a social element to the organization's biennial meetings.
"There is a lot of camaraderie. We get to see people we haven't seen for years," he said.
Visit vva.org for information about the Vietnam Veterans of America and the convention schedule of events.
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