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New Names Etched Into Vietnam Veterans Memorial

There are 13 new names engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. The Department of Defense recently determined these 13 soldiers died as a result of their wounds during the war, which stretched from the first American casualty in 1956 to the fall of Saigon in 1975. The new names join more than 58,000 others. Here & Now’s Alex Ashlock was in Washington yesterday for the adding of the new names and brings us this report.

I kept thinking how familiar this was, as I spoke to people at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Mother’s Day. They were the families of 13 soldiers whose names have just been engraved on the Memorial Wall.

There were wives and sons and sisters who took care of their wounded men when they came home from Vietnam. Some did it for many years. It reminded me so much of my parents’ generation, friends of my mom and dad, a couple. The man came home from World War II paralyzed. The woman took care of him the rest of his long life.

Beth Wilson of Florence, Alabama, did that for Danny Joe Wilson. They got married after Danny came home wounded from the Vietnam War. She couldn’t remember how many surgeries he had after that. He couldn’t work, but he lived. He coached Little League. A family friend told me that before Danny died in 2012, kids from the teams he coached, grown up by then, came to the hospital to visit him.

“It was really special to come here for this,” Kathy Lawson said. “This was something he would have been so excited about. It’s a bittersweet day.”

Thomas Charles Littles of Brewton, Alabama, was drafted in 1966. He was wounded in 1969 during his first tour of duty in Vietnam. He died two years later at the age of 24. Thomas was one of 10 children. His brother Douglas was standing near the panel, which now includes Thomas’s name.

“Some folks would say closure, but it just says he served with pride and it’s finally being recognized by this great memorial,” Douglas Littles said.

One of the other names added to the Wall over the weekend was Michael Noel Faherty. There was no family there to see it though. He emigrated to Boston from Galway, Washington, and joined the Army in 1966, as a combat photographer. He caught malaria in Vietnam and died in 1968. His name is now engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, but he’s buried in Rahoon Cemetery in Galway City, Ireland.

Names Added To The Memorial

Staff Sgt. Jerry Leon Antrich, U.S. Army
June 20, 1930 – Aug. 10, 1969
Date of Casualty: Nov. 1, 1967

Sgt. 1st Class Frederick Joseph Baum, U.S. Army
Feb. 22, 1930 – Feb. 28, 1971
Date of Casualty: Unknown

Pfc. Henry John Drozdowski, Jr., U.S. Army
March 9, 1947 – April 30, 2011
Date of Casualty: Jan. 13, 1967

Spc. 5 Michael Noel Faherty, U.S. Army
Dec. 30, 1946 – July 25, 1968
Date of Casualty: Unknown

Pfc. Gregory Jackson Franklin, U.S. Army
July 19, 1949 – Feb. 12, 1979
Date of Casualty: Nov. 27, 1968

Spc. 4 William Arthur Gabrielsen, U.S. Army
April 2, 1947 – March 10, 1970
Date of Casualty: Aug. 12, 1968

Pfc. Ronald Hall, U.S. Army
July 20, 1948 – Oct. 2, 1967
Date of Casualty: Unknown

Spc. 4 Robert Kroptavich, U.S. Army
Oct. 26, 1942 – Sept. 10, 1968
Date of Casualty: Unknown

Spc. 4 Thomas Charles Littles, U.S. Army
Nov. 29, 1946 – June 3, 1971
Date of Casualty: Dec. 28, 1969

Pfc. Paul Luther Loidolt, U.S. Army
Aug. 30, 1948 – Feb. 21, 1969
Date of Casualty: April 4, 1968

Master Sgt. Walter Hugh Mauldin, U.S. Army
Sept. 9, 1931 – May 8, 1968
Date of Casualty: Unknown

Spc. 4 Alan Leslie Seamans, U.S. Army
June 10, 1949 – Jan. 25, 1998
Date of Casualty: Oct. 13, 1967

Pfc. Danny Joe Wilson, U.S. Army
July 8, 1944 – Nov. 16, 2012
Date of Casualty: Aug. 18, 1966

Reporter

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

Well, staying in Washington, let's go now to one of the most visited places in the city, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, that black marble wall, which was just altered with the addition of 13 new names, soldiers who died from wounds during the war, which stretched from the first American casualty in 1956 to the fall of Saigon in 1975.

The new names join more than 58,000 already on the wall. HERE AND NOW's Alex Ashlock was at the ceremony yesterday in Washington.

ALEX ASHLOCK, BYLINE: Before the ceremony, the families of the soldiers gather for breakfast at a suburban Washington hotel. Yesterday was Mother's Day, and 85-year-old Marie Franklin(ph) came from Winchester, Virginia, to see her son Gregory's name that's now engraved on the black marble wall.

MARIE FRANKLIN: I think he would be like me: awestruck, absolutely. I think it's just a wonderful thing. But I'm so glad I got to come.

ASHLOCK: Gregory Jackson Franklin was wounded in Vietnam in 1968. He died a decade later. Danny Joe Wilson of Florence, Alabama, joined the Army in 1965. He was badly wounded a year later, and he suffered the rest of his life from those wounds. But he lived until 2012. His widow is Beth Wilson(ph).

BETH WILSON: He didn't regret his service one bit. Even with all the health issues he had, he was not bitter. He was a good man.

ASHLOCK: The Drozdowski family brought a huge contingent, including grandchildren, to yesterday's events. They came to honor Henry Drozdowski. He was a private in the U.S. Army fighting near Saigon in 1967 when he was seriously wounded. Doctors said he would never walk again. They also told Henry he would never have children. He did both.

BRIAN DROZDOWSKI: It's a fantastic experience, a meaningful experience, bittersweet to a point, but 45 of us are here to honor my dad.

ASHLOCK: That's Henry's son Brian, who says his dad lived an incredibly active life despite enduring 300 surgeries in the years after he was wounded.

DROZDOWSKI: His brother was lamenting, near the time he died, I have never beaten you in golf, in pool, in shooting, in all these things. So he was committed to excellence, and he demanded that from myself and my brother. And for that you can see the legacy.

ASHLOCK: One other legacy: Brian was inspired to become a doctor after spending so much time with his dad during all those surgeries. After the breakfast, we boarded buses that took us to the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: All right, everyone, welcome to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial grounds. If you want to step on off the bus...

ASHLOCK: Yesterday was a beautiful spring day in Washington. The families gathered on the grass in the sunshine for a brief ceremony. Then they walked to the wall to find their soldiers' names. Ed Gabrielsen placed a wreath on the stone walkway by his brother's name. William Arthur Gabrielsen of Frankfort, Michigan, came home in a coma after he was wounded in Vietnam. He never came out of it and died in 1970.

ED GABRIELSEN: Well, it's a form of closure. It's satisfaction in knowing that it's finally been done. It's just great to be able to be here with friends and family and just all share in the gratitude.

ASHLOCK: Elaine Stone(ph) shared that gratitude. She came to Washington from Grafton, New Hampshire, to see her brother's name on the wall for the first time. Alan Seamans was severely wounded in Vietnam in 1967; eventually he had to have both legs amputated. He died in 1998.

ELAINE STONE: This is the closure. This is the end of the journey.

ASHLOCK: Nearby I watched a volunteer, high on a ladder, doing a rubbing. People do that every day at the wall to take something home. They place a piece of paper over the name and rub a pencil across it to get the image of that name. The volunteer was doing rubbings of the name Charles Thomas Littles for his family, including his brother Douglas.

DOUGLAS LITTLES: It's significant in that his service was not in vain, and it is significant in that the families' sacrifices - just as one person does, all family members (unintelligible) sacrifice.

ASHLOCK: If you've ever been to the wall, you can see how it divides the landscape just like the Vietnam War divided the country, but in a way, the names there, including the 13 new ones, are a way to bind up the nation's wounds after that long and painful conflict. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Alex Ashlock.

HOBSON: And you can see photos from the ceremonies yesterday at hereandnow.org, where we've also got a list of the 13 new names that have been added to the wall. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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