By CHRIS AGEE
The fourth annual update at the National Vietnam War Museum Saturday included the addition of 10 names to the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
In accordance with law, soldiers’ names are not added to the local half-sized replica until they have been displayed for one year on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
As in previous years, Saturday’s event kicked off with the arrival of the Patriot Guard Riders. Former U.S. Army Golden Knight and double-amputee Dana Bowman also returned for a skydiving exhibition and offered introductory comments.
Monica Harvey was on hand to sing the National Anthem.
Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Spivey offered an invocation before welcoming the ceremony’s guest speakers, remembering “those even this week who have fallen in service to this country.”
NVWM Treasurer Jim Messinger used the opportunity to publicly announce Spivey’s new role within the museum.
“Last year I made an issue of asking him if he would be the official chaplain ofthe Vietnam War Museum,” Messinger said. “He said he thought he already was.”
Bill Kane represented the museum’s board by introducing the keynote speakers and explained the importance of the event.
“We’re here to honor the 10 men whose names are added to that wall,” he said, explaining they are being “welcomed home from their final mission.”
Those added to the wall at Saturday’s ceremony include:
• U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Joseph W. Aubin – panel 09E, Line 012.
• U.S. Army Aviation Electronics Technician Pfc. Johnny O. Brooks – panel 16W, Line 106.
• Army Specialist-4 David L. Deckard – panel 28W, Line 094.
• Navy Lt.j.g. David M. Desilets – panel 10E, Line 077.
• Navy Aviation Electronics Technician (radar) 3rd Class Richard C. Hunt – panel 07E, Line 112.
• Navy Airman Albert K. Kuewa – panel 02E, Line 042.
• Army Lt. Walter A. Linzy – panel 08E, Line 017.
• U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Frank A. Neary – panel 15E, Line 096.
• Navy ATR3 Richard D. Stocker – panel 15E, Line 036.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation works in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Denfense, to determine name additions and status changes, and with the National Park Service, which operates and maintains the Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Names are added when the DOD has been determined that a service member died directly from combat-related wounds, according to thewall-usa.com.
Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Nathan Vail, a highly decorated veteran who served in Germany, Korea, and Vietnam among other tours, began his comments Saturday with an acknowledgement of the museum’s progress.
“I’m amazed at the transformation of some 12 acres in 15 years,” he said, also recognizing the vital role of financial support. “It is the consequence of nickels and dimes, not millions.”
He also touched on the often poor reception Vietnam War veterans received upon returning to the U.S., blaming events such as Jane Fonda’s visit to a war prison for the unfavorable view of the mission.
“Selected POWs were cleaned up to greet her,” Vail said, adding their captors were likely emboldened by the knowledge American troops were disliked in their own country.
“It is now commonplace for me and others to be thanked for our service,” he explained.
The next speaker, Retired U.S.M.C. Col. Mant Hawkins, said he was too young to serve in Vietnam, explaining he remembered being 16 or 17 years old and expecting to be drafted.
“We didn’t use words in my house like Toronto or Ontario,” he said.
The Vietnam generation was responsible for his education, Hawkins explained, crediting those who served before him for instilling the proper values and discipline into those who followed.
“I’m alive today because of the lessons I learned from Vietnam War veterans,” he said. Since that war, Hawkins noted Americans have been far more supportive of men and women in combat and have welcomed returning soldiers with appreciation.
“It’s because of your experience, unfortunately,” he concluded.
U.S. Navy Captain Robert A. Bennett was the final speaker Saturday morning.
He expressed gratitude to Vietnam veterans for their integrity in the face of “the spite our country showed you.”
He said Vietnam veterans also deserve recognition for carrying on the previous generation’s proud traditions.
“Even though your country didn’t realize it, you were called to duty and served honorably,” he said. In addition to the era before them, Bennett said, “Vietnam vets are also our greatest generation.”
One attendee, Vietnam veteran Spencer Gardner, said he has only missed one wall update since the memorial was unveiled. The veteran of two tours during his service with the U.S. Army said the museum is a great local resource.
“I’m impressed with the hard work that’s ben done out here,” he said.
“It’s a great place – a lot of meaning out here,” he said.
At the culmination of Saturday’s event, attendees were allowed to visit the wall and view the new names joining nearly 60,000 others.