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Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day
March 29, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
The Oklahoma History Center and the Oklahoma Historical Society are proud to announce that they will recognize all Vietnam War veterans in a commemoration event on Friday, March 29, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This event is in response to the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on March 28, 2017. The recognition celebration is open to the public at no charge and will include music by the 145th Army Band and presentations from a former Vietnam prisoner of war, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bill Schwertfeger, and Vietnam veteran Harvey Pratt. The ceremony will take place in the Devon Great Hall at the Oklahoma History Center, located at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive in Oklahoma City.
Schwertfeger served as an F-4 pilot in the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base from April 1971 to February 16, 1972. On that day, his aircraft was hit by two surface-to-air missiles and he was forced to eject over North Vietnam. He was taken as a prisoner of war and spent 407 days in captivity. He was released during Operation Homecoming on March 28, 1973, and was briefly hospitalized at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, to recover from his injuries. Schwertfeger retired from the Air Force on June 1, 1988, a highly decorated veteran, receiving three Silver Stars. After retiring from the Air Force, he flew for American Airlines and logged more than 10,000 hours flying a Boeing 727.
Harvey Pratt, a native Oklahoman and Vietnam veteran, began his career in law enforcement by joining the Midwest City Police Department. In his capacity as a police officer, Pratt did his first witness description drawing of a homicide suspect, which resulted in an arrest and conviction. Pratt joined the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) as a narcotics officer and retired as director of the Information Division. He completed thousands of witness description drawings and was involved in the search for many high profile murderers such as the Green River Killer, Ted Bundy, Henry Lucas, and Ottis Toole. After more than 50 years in law enforcement, Pratt recently retired as the forensic artist for OSBI. He was named by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian as the winning designer for the new National Native American Veterans Memorial to be located on the grounds of the National Mall in Washington, DC. It is slated to open Veterans Day 2020.
Attendees are encouraged to tour the museum, including the special exhibit Welcome Home: Oklahomans and the War in Vietnam. The exhibit, located in the E. L. and Thelma Gaylord Special Exhibit Gallery, opened in November 2017 and will remain open until November 2019.