The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War.
Inscribed on the black granite walls are the names of 58,267 (including those added in 2010) men and women who gave their lives or remain missing. The Memorial is dedicated to honor the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of all who answered the call to serve during one of the most divisive wars in U.S. history.
The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized.
The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth , Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.
There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.
39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.
8,283 were just 19 years old.
The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.
12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.
5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.
997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam.
1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam.
31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.
Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.
54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia.
8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.
Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.
West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.
Visiting the Wall
Vietnam Veterans Memorial is located north of the Lincoln Memorial near the intersection of 22nd Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW.
Visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial can be a very emotional experience for visitors. Please be respectful of others while you visit.
🔹To locate a name on the wall, use one of the catalogs available near the entrances of the memorial. The names are listed alphabetically by last name in the catalog. Each listing provides a panel number and a row number.
🔹To locate the name entry on the wall, look on the bottom corner of each panel for its panel number (e.g. 24W) and then count down the rows starting from the top. As an indexing aid, every other panel has pip marks on every tenth row to help users count the rows.
🔹Typically five names appear on each row (six appear where names have been added to the wall since 1982). Rangers and volunteers are often available to assist you.
Parking is available along Constitution Avenue. Be sure to read the signs for restrictions and time limits. Handicapped parking is available on the south side of the Lincoln Memorial.
Interstate 395 provides access to the Mall from the South. Interstate 495, New York Avenue, Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway, George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the Cabin John Parkway provide access from the North. Interstate 66, U.S. Routes 50 and 29 provide access from the West. U.S. Routes 50, 1, and 4 provide access from the East.
A very dear friend, 95-year old World War II Veteran, Ralph Watkins passed away on Oct. 28, 2020. For several years we were Whataburger breakfast buddies and I enjoyed his tales of service in the Pacific during the war.
Virtually every morning diners would stop by to shake his hand and thank him for his service. He was humbled but honored they would see his veterans cap and acknowledge him.
Dodie and I would also visit him at his home and towards the end through a window outside his hospice bedroom. Among the last things he smiled and said was “tell them I didn’t die of that damn COVID!”
With this article, I’m making good on his request.
It reminded me of Ralph, my own grandfather, other friends and brave family members and all of our veterans. We owe so much to their service and sacrifice to protect and save our precious freedoms.
A few years ago I was changing planes at Dallas Love Field when I saw a crowd of people, some visibly crying and emotional, walking away from windows overlooking some sort of ceremony at the Southwest Airlines gates down below.
I was in a hurry, but asked a bystander what was going on.
“A Vietnam veteran is coming home,” the kind lady said, gently waving a small American flag towards me.
I gave a quick salute and hurried on to my connecting flight.
Last week, going through some old files, I found a note to remind myself of the “Vietnam veteran coming home.” Here are the results:
The Veteran was Col. Roy Abner Knight Jr. who as a pilot in 1967 was shot down and his body had only been recently found and identified.
A notable part of this story was Col. Knight said goodbye to his family at Love Field 52 years prior. His son, Bryan, was only 5 years old when he left to serve our country in Vietnam.
Bryan Knight grew up to be a Captain for Southwest Airlines. It was he who flew the plane that brought his father’s remains home back to the same airport where they said what would be their final farewells.
Capt. Knight touched down on the tarmac while a crowd of onlookers, who had been informed about the powerful moment over airport intercom, watched in awe from the terminal.
Right before my plane arrived, hundreds of people were watching in silence as the flag-draped casket of the fallen airman was taken off the jet.
Col. Knight served as a clerk typist in the Philippines, Japan and Korea before attending Officer Candidate School in 1953. He married his wife, Patricia, after being commissioned a 2nd Lt., and the pair had three children together, Roy III, Gayann and Bryan.
Col. Knight then served as a fighter pilot in Germany and France before returning to Texas with his family in 1963 to become an instructor pilot. He was called to serve in the 602nd Tactical Fighter Squadron during the Vietnam War in 1966 and reported to Southeast Asia in January 1967. There, he flew combat missions almost daily until being shot down in Laos on May 19 of the same year.
Col. Knight’s body was not recovered because of the hostile location where his plane crashed, and he was declared dead by the Air Force in 1974.
He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and six Air Medals for his actions, his obituary states.
Col. Knight’s family remained without closure until February 2019, when his remains were recovered by personnel assigned to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and identified with the help of dental records.
The veteran’s casket was flown home by his youngest son to be buried with full military honors in Weatherford, Texas.
One article reported Southwest Airlines said they were “honored to support [the veteran’s] long-hoped homecoming and join in tribute to Col. Knight as well as every other military hero who has paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the armed forces.”
“Earlier this year, Captain Knight learned that his father’s remains were positively identified which began the mission of returning Col. Knight to his home in North Texas,” the company explained. “Today, his son flew his father home to Love Field where he was received with full military honors to express a nation’s thanks for his Dad’s service to our country.”
“In 1975, President Ford was left to manage the difficult ending of the Vietnam War. President Ford went to Congress for a relief package to allow American personnel and our allies to evacuate. However, there was
ONE US SENATOR
who opposed any such support. The result was the embarrassing and hurried evacuation from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon,” wrote former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in his biography, When Center Held.
“This senator reveled in the embarrassment and did everything he could leverage it politically against Ford.”
“Despite the efforts of this U.S. Senator–President Ford managed to rescue 1,500 South Vietnamese allies prior to the country’s fall. Had President Ford not acted quickly, these people would have been targeted and slaughtered for their support of America.”
“When they arrived in America, President Ford asked Congress for a package to assist these refugees integrate into American society. That SAME troublesome SENATOR TORPEDOED ANY SUPPORT for these shell shocked, anti communist, Americans and our helpers, refugees.”
Instead, President Ford had to recruit Christian organizations to offer assistance on a voluntary basis. As he did so, the Senator belittled those efforts.
This senator, with no shame, was given the codename: “No Name.”
What kind of person would oppose President Ford’s tireless work to do the right and humanitarian thing?
“Who would want to play politics with the well-being of innocent people who stood by America in the tragic Vietnam War?”
He spat in the doctor’s face with his only remaining strength to let him know he was still alive.
Dodie and I went to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio during the spring to visit her father, Raymond Bailey’s gravesite. Then on July 4th weekend 2020, we went by the Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C.
Pandemic restrictions prevented us from entering, but she was able to see the Iwo Jima statue (US Marine Corps War Memorial) just outside the 639 acre cemetery.
The solemn history of our nation is reflected on the grounds of these cemeteries.
As autumn began, we made our way to Fredericksburg, Texas to visit the National Museum of the Pacific War, a moving Smithsonian caliber tribute to our World War II heroes.
Dodie and I found that love for our country, our patriotism and thankfulness for God and His mercies have grown in 2020.
We are extremely grateful for the courage and sacrifices of our military and their families throughout US history.
During our visit at Fort Sam Cemetery, we paused to honor a fellow Texan, who lays in internment there. I’ve heard more than a few people deem him as one of the most badass men that ever lived.
In 1965, Roy Benavidez stepped on a land mine during a patrol in Vietnam and was evacuated to the United States.
Doctors in San Antonio told Benavidez that he would never walk again and began preparing his medical discharge papers.
I wanted to go back to Vietnam because of what the news media was saying about us: that our presence was not needed there; they’re burning the flag….
He defied what doctors said and fought to walk again.
“I come from a little town named Cuero, Texas,” he told a crowd in 1991. “I was born there, the ‘turkey capital of the world.’ After the death of my mother and father, at an early age, my brother and I were adopted by an aunt and uncle.”
“We moved to El Campo, town southwest of Houston, about an hour and a half. I was raised there. I went to school there. I worked at odd jobs there — shined shoes, sold papers, picked cottons. And like a fool, I dropped out of school and I ran away from home. I’m not proud of that.”
“I needed to learn a skill. I needed an education. My adoptive father would tell me, ‘Son, an education and a diploma is the key to success. Bad habits and bad company will ruin you.'”
Benavidez joined the Texas National Guard and later, “the regular army. I needed to have education and learn a skill.”
Later, as a Green Beret, he noted that, “we in the Special Forces are trained to operate deep behind enemy lines with little or no support at all. We are trained in five specialties. I’m trained in three: operations and intelligence, where I learned oceanography, meteorology, and photography. I’m an interrogator and I’m a linguist. I’m trained in light and heavy weapons and cross-trained as a medic.”
When doctors said he would never walk again, “at night I would slip out of bed and crawl to a wall using my elbows and my chin. My back would just be killing me and I’d be crying, but I get to the wall and I set myself against the wall and I’d back myself up against the wall and I’d stand there — like Kaw-Liga, the Indian. I’d stand and move my toes, right and left…every single chance I got — I got. And I wanted to walk — I wanted to go back to Vietnam because of what the news media was saying about us: that our presence was not needed there; they’re burning the flag….”
“And I remember in my Special Forces training, one of the training missions that I was on, I remembered that my leader would tell me, “Faith, determination, and a positive attitude. A positive attitude will carry you further than ability. You can do it, Benavidez. You can do it.” I never forgot those three words. Never. So there I was at night: slip out of bed; the nurses would catch me sometimes; they would chew me out, give me a pill, sleeping pill, put me to sleep. They would tell the doctors in the morning. I was determined to walk.”
“Nine months later, here comes my medical discharge papers. And I told the doctor, “Doctor, look what I can do.”
“Sergeant, I’m sorry,” the doctor replied. “Even if you can stand up, you’ll never be able to walk.”
Benavidez jumped out of bed and stood up right before him. His back was hurting, aching, and began crying. He moved just a little bit.
The doctor said, “Benavidez, if you walked out of this room, I’ll tear these papers up.”
He walked out.
“I walked out of that ward at Beach Pavilion,” Benavidez recalled. “I walked out with a limp. I went back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I started my therapy again, running 5 miles or 10 miles a day, doing 50 to 100 pushups; and I made three parachute jumps in one day. I was ready to go back to Vietnam, physically and mentally ready to go back.”
The latter part of April, 1968 in Vietnam, Benavidez and his buddy were instructed to gather intelligence information behind enemy lines.
“And after two days on the ground, my buddy was shot through the eye, the back, the legs. Our mission was complete but I didn’t want to leave my buddy behind. I called in for an extraction helicopter to come and get us out.”
The helicopter dropped McGuire rig (nylon ropes with hooks) down to them.
“We hooked on — the enemy was firing at us. We pulled up — going up through the canopy of the jungle, our ropes started to twist and rub. You know nylon, it burns when it rubs.”
“As we cleared the canopy, our ropes were completely twisted and rubbing. And there was a non-commissioned officer that looked out of the helicopter — he was riding [unclear]. And when he saw those two ropes burning, he immediately tied himself with a piece of rope around his waist and he pulled himself out of the helicopter and undid those two ropes, separated them. That’s dedication. That’s love of fellow man and country. I’ll never forget that man. And the enemy was still firing at us but they never shot us. We landed — We landed in a safe spot. My buddy was taken to the hospital. Shortly, thereafter, he expired.”
On May, 2 1968 during the Vietnam War, there was an operation to save his wounded comrades. Because they were wounded, they couldn’t move to the helicopter, a designated pickup zone.
Benavidez jumped from the hovering helicopter some 30 feet above the ground and ran 250 feet under heavy small arms fire to the team. His only weapon was a knife.
While he was running to his comrades, he was wounded on his right leg, face and head.
“We saw a helicopter coming in to land and had a door gunner slumped over the weapon. When the helicopter landed, I unstrapped the door gunner.”
It was Michael Craig.
“We just celebrated his 19th birthday in March,” Benavidez said. “I cradled him in my arms and his last words were, ‘My God, my mother and father.'”
When he reached the team, Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. Later, the aircraft pilot was fatally wounded and his helicopter crashed.
Although he was critically wounded, Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the ruins of the helicopter, where he aided the wounded out of the aircraft and gathered shocked survivors into a defensive formation. Under heavy fire, he moved around the squad and distributed water and ammunition to the men.
“I engaged in a hand-to-hand combat. I was hit in the mouth with the butt of a weapon. My jaws were locked. After my last return back to the helicopter when I was boarded on, I was holding my intestines in my hand.”
“We lifted up. The helicopter had over its payload. Blood was running on both sides of the helicopter.”
“When we landed, they locked me in a staging area and started unloading, started identifying the bodies. They found out I loaded three dead enemy soldiers in that helicopter…”
“…and because I sort of looked oriental, they thought I was one of them so they let me lay right next to them; and they were putting us in body bags. And I remember my feet being lifted, and I was inserted into the body bag, and I hear that zipper coming up and I was ‘Oh, my God, no, no.’ My eyes were shut because I had blood all over my face. My eyes and the blood had dried up in my eyelids. And I couldn’t talk because my jaws were locked. And I could hear that zipper coming up, coming up. And one of my buddies was doing the Mexican hat dance and he was yelling at the doctor, ‘That’s Roy, that’s Roy Benavidez!’ Doctor said, ‘Sorry, there’s nothing I can do for him.'”
“Oh my God. The zipper is just coming up — I was trying to wiggle in my own blood. And finally — I found out later — Jerry Cottingham made that doctor at least to feel my heartbeat. When I felt that hand on my chest, I made the luckiest shot I ever made in my life. I spit in the doctor’s face. So the doctor said, ‘I think he’ll make it.'”
“So, I — I was cleaned up, put on a helicopter alongside with my buddy — one of the guys that I had saved. We got airborne. I just said to myself, Hold on buddy. Just hold on. We’re going to get some medical attention.”
“And his grip tightened up on me. And then he let go. I was “Oh God, why do you put me through this test? Why? You helped me get these men out, save[d] them, saved this material; and now you take them away from me. Why?” And I was crying.”
“I was moving so much that the co-pilot, he happened to look back and he thought that I was gasping for air so he gets out of his seat, get[s] his bayonet out, and he was going to do a trache on me, and I am about to kick him out of the helicopter. That’s just too much for one day.”
They finally landed at a hospital in Long Binh and he was wheeled into the operating room.
“As I was being lifted to my operating table, I saw this nurse on her hands and knees, crying, yelling, asking God, ‘Why do you this to these men? Why?’ Just crying.”
“And I turned a little bit to my left, I saw in the other operating table a man that had both legs and both arms missing. I passed out.”
“I woke up in the ward. One of my buddies was laying next to me. We were so bandaged up. We couldn’t talk. We used to wiggle our toes to make sure that we were still alive. After a short while, my buddy was transferred from there and I thought that he had died.”
“I was transferred to Japan, Tachikawa. In that airplane that I was flying in MedEvac, we lost two men. And I remember this nurse kept yelling at me: ‘Benavidez, you’re not going to die on me. I’m going to pinch you every time you close your eyes. I am going to pinch you. I am going to pinch you.’ Boy, she kept pinching me.”
“When I got to Tachikawa, when I got to Japan, and they wheeled me into the operating room, they just rolled me again. I remember the doctor — I heard him say, ‘What in the world happened to you?'”
“I had blue spots, red spots all over me. And I said, ‘That lady kept pinching me up there.’“
“So after — I went to back Fort Sam, Houston, Beach Pavilion and I stayed in that hospital almost a year. I continued with my career.”
“A lot of people call me a hero. I appreciate the title but the real heroes are the ones that gave their life for this country. The real heroes are our wives and our mothers. Above all, the heroes are the ones that are laying in those hospitals, disabled for life in those hospital beds. But the real heroes are the future leaders of our country, the students that are staying in school and learning to say no drugs. Those are our real heroes.”
“You know, there’s a saying among us veterans: ‘For those who have fought for it, life has a special flavor the protected will never know.’ You have never lived ’til you almost died. And it is us veterans that pray for peace, most of all, especially the wounded because we have to suffer the wounds of war.”
“I’m asked hundreds of times: Would you do it over again? In my 25 years in the military, I feel like I’ve been overpaid for the service to my country. There will never be enough paper to print the money nor enough gold in Fort Knox for me to have to keep from doing what I did. I’m proud to be an American; and even prouder — and I’m even prouder that I’ve earned the privilege to wear the Green Beret. I live by the motto of Duty, Honor, Country.”