April 30 marked the 39th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, a sad day for the thousands of Americans who fought and died defending South Vietnam against Communist aggression.

In a fine documentary, "Vietnam: A Time to Remember," the program ends with a South Vietnamese soldier tanking the Vietnam veterans for "being there," and for their sacrifices. Captain Quang X. Pham reflected on those sacrifices. "The first time I visited the Vietnam Memorial was in 1986. It was difficult to stand before the names of those who gave their lives to fight for my country. They were not even from my country."

Between 1961 and 1975, approximately 3.4 million Americans served in Southeast Asia (Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). President Ronald Reagan praised their sacrifice: "Those who fought in Vietnam reflected the best in us. No number of wreaths, no amount of music and memorializing will ever do them justice." As of April 30, 2014, there were 58,286 names on the Vietnam Memorial.

If patriotism is defined as fulfilling one's duty in defense of freedom, then we owe the Vietnam veterans a lifetime of gratitude for their patriotism.

Julie Williams