Honoring comrades who died by helping to read their names aloud
By MICAH HENRY
For David White, age 73 of the Ellendale Community, Vietnam isn’t some far off place on the other side of the globe. It’s where he served in the Army, where he answered his country’s call, and where he lost his best friend from school. And last week, David journeyed with his wife, Peggy, to Washington, D.C., to be part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial 40th Anniversary Commemorative Program.
His friend, the late Gene C. Reid who, like David, grew up in the Oak Hill Community of eastern Caldwell County, is one of the 58,281 killed in the Vietnam War. Gene’s name appears on the Memorial Wall, which spans nearly 500 feet in the nation’s capital.
Also there on the wall are the names of Alexander County’s own seven sons who died in Vietnam: SP4 Bobbie Maxsen Auton, SP4 Lunas Jonas Daniels, LCPL Robert Blaine Daniels, SN Terry Wayne Deal, and PFC Robert Gerald Jolly, all of Taylorsville, and Hiddenite’s SGT Robert Gary Hayes and CAPT Eugene Thomas Meadows.
David, who also serves as the Ellendale Fire Chief, said names on the wall are listed in order of the date of death of the service member. The average age of service members on the Wall is 23 years, 1 month. David served with the Army’s 1st Aviation Brigade, Helicopter Company, in Can Tho, South Vietnam.
Last week, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the wall being completed, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund sponsored a week-long event which included people taking turns to read aloud the name of each service member who died in the war. David noted the reading began at 5 a.m. Monday, Nov. 7, and ran until midnight. The reading continued each day through Thursday evening until all names were read aloud. He had agreed to read two thirty-name blocks, including his friend, Gene, but ended up reading four blocks of names for a total of 121 names at different times during the week.
“It’s so overwhelming when you see all the names and you realize, each name has a story and a family who was affected,” he said.
It was just recently announced that a photo of each of the 58,281 service members has been located and posted online at the Fund’s website, vvmf.org, on the Wall of Faces.
While David and Peggy were in D.C., they were able to visit two of the Smithsonian Institution’s facilities and see other landmarks there.
When asked what the most important thing about his visit to the Vietnam Memorial, David said, “Never forget. Never forget our veterans.”