And those Vietnam War veterans who did return want no one to forget their lost camrades.
A service organized by Mountain Home National Cemetery, Vietnam Veterans of America Post 979 from Kingsport and the Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday was designed to “honor the service, sacrifice, and enduring achievements of the Vietnam veterans during a Vietnam War Commemoration 50th Anniversary ceremony,” officials said.
Leaders said the remembrance “is a long-overdue opportunity for all Americans to recognize, honor and thank our Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifices during one of America’s longest wars. Nine million Americans, approximately 7.2 million living today, served during that period. The commemoration makes no distinction between veterans who served in-country, in-theater or were stationed elsewhere during those 20 years. All answered to the call of duty.”
Speakers at the event included John Pollack, U.S. Navy; Mo Baines, U.S. Army 5th Special Forces; Gordon Fields, chief warrant officer; VA cemetery director Jeny Walker; VA Medical Director Dean Borsos; and other veterans from the Vietnam era.
Historian Alan Jackson spoke in remembrance of six veterans who either died in Vietnam and are buried at Mountain Home or are still missing and have memorial markers at the cemetery.
Those buried at Mountain Home who were killed in action in the Vietnam War were:
• U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Charles Howard Duty, killed April 30, 1967;
• U.S. Army Corps Spec. Bennie Eugene McCorkle, killed Feb. 16, 1968;
• U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. John Edward West Jr., killed Feb. 13, 1969; and
U.S. Army Pfc. David Clark Williams, killed June 3, 1968.
Missing in action are:
• U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Robert Douglas Avery, missing since May 3, 1968; and
• U.S. Army Spec. Charles Wayne Timbs, missing since April 22, 1964.
The graves and markers were designated with a small American flag, a red rose and a penny left on the headstone. Jackson told the crowd about the tradition of leaving a coin on a veteran’s headstone. A penny means that you visited and paid your respects, a nickel indicates you trained together with that veteran, a dime means you served in the same unit and a quarter means you were with that veteran when they died.
“This is the saddest, but most comforting, coin to the family since it’s letting them know their loved one didn’t die alone, that someone who cared or maybe even loved them as a brother or sister was with them,” Jackson said. “A person is never truly forgotten as long as someone remembers them and carries their name on to the next generation. Thank you for helping us carry on the names of our fallen brothers and sisters.”
Several Gold Star family members from the Vietnam era also attended the ceremony and were recognized for their relatives’ sacrifice. Jackson said 3,142 Vietnam War and Vietnam era veterans are buried at Mountain Home.