Before the official founding of Sons and Daughters In Touch in 1990, the children who lost their fathers in the Vietnam War had very few resources to help them understand their profound, emotional experience. Many grew to adulthood wondering if they could somehow be the only one to have endured such a loss.
Among the 58,282 Americans lost in Southeast Asia, it is estimated that more than one-third were fathers. From the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s, about 20,000 Gold Star children were left to wonder why daddy wasn’t coming home. Today, these ‘sons and daughters’ have become the living legacies of their fathers, and are shining examples of American resilience. By perpetuating the healing inspired by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, SDIT is teaching the cost of war, and setting an example for younger generations of Gold Star children.
Standing together, these ‘sons and daughters’ are the children of American soldiers who served in every branch – and at every rank – of the United States military. Their fathers were lost throughout the span of the Vietnam War, on land, in the air, and at sea. Today, the Gold Star children from the Vietnam War come from every corner of America, weaving the same diverse fabric their fathers did a generation ago.
On Father’s Day 1965, an Air Force B57 disappeared over North Vietnam. Four years later, eight-year-old Tony Cordero helped bury his father in Arlington National Cemetery. As he approached his 30th birthday – when he would officially out-live his father – Tony wanted to find others who lost a father in Vietnam. That quest led him to Wanda Ruffin, a Gold Star Widow who was eager to put Tony in touch with another young adult whose father was killed in Vietnam – her own daughter Wende. That symbolic introduction became the genesis for uniting all Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ from the Vietnam War.
In 1992, SDIT held its first national Father’s Day gathering, providing many of the 400 Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ their first opportunity see their fathers’ names on the Wall; to share with each other, to meet veterans who served with their fathers, and learn that they are not alone. On a sunny June morning, these living legacies gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to pay a powerful tribute to their fathers. For all, the healing process had begun as they proclaimed, “They were our fathers.”
In 1993, SDIT hosted its second Father’s Day Reunion in Washington, DC, welcoming a larger audience of sons and daughters, their families and supportive Veterans.
Later that year, SDIT was officially recognized as a tax exempt non-profit organization and SDIT formally began the business of healing the wounds left from America’s most divisive war.
The third SDIT Father’s Day Reunion was held in June 1997, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Again, hundreds of sons and daughters went to our Nation’s capitol to honor their fathers, some for the first time, others for their second or third. Many felt compelled to bring their children, to teach them of their Grandfather’s significant place in United States history.
On Father’s Day 2000, while marking its 10th Anniversary before another large crowd, SDIT announced that the time had come for its members to travel to Vietnam to experience the place where their fathers died.
In the spring of 2003, SDIT led an historic two week journey to Vietnam. Guided by Vietnam combat veterans and nurses who served in the war, more than 50 Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ were able to stand in the precise location where their fathers were lost. While in Vietnam, the SDIT delegation also visited Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta, Cu Chi, Da Nang, Quang Tri, Khe San, China Beach, Hue City and Hanoi.
SDIT celebrated its fifteenth anniversary by hosting its largest reunion on Father’s Day 2005, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
In 2010, SDIT reached another milestone, celebrating its 20th Anniversary with a national Father’s Day celebration at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Once again, hundreds of ‘sons and daughters’ traveled from across the nation to share their ‘unique life experience’, to see their fathers’ names on the wall, and to meet old friends.
In towns and cities across America, SDIT members can be found participating in traveling exhibits of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, attending Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, joining the annual ‘Run for the Wall’ and ‘Rolling Thunder’ rally, and many other events. SDIT is proud to have marched in notable Independence Day Parades in Washington DC, Bristol, RI and Huntington Beach, CA. Its members also marched in the 2007 parade celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On Memorial Day 2012, SDIT members joined other Gold Star Families organizations for the annual Memorial Day breakfast at the White House.
Since September 11, 2001, members of Sons and Daughters In Touch have shared their life experiences with other Gold Star families who have lost loved ones. Casualties will always be part of war, and regardless of the date, place or war, Gold Star families share a unique bond. SDIT continues to offer its unique insight into this experience with hope that it can make life a bit easier for younger Gold Star children who will confront a lifetime of questions.
Today, Sons & Daughters In Touch has made an impact in the lives of thousands of Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ from every state in the country. SDIT is proud to be supported by every major Veterans Service Organization. SDIT is committed to uniting the Gold Star ‘sons and daughters’ from the Vietnam War, and providing support and insight to a new generation of Gold Star families.