News: Marines remember fallen brothers during Vietnam Recognition Day ceremony
Story by Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Under a somber sky, Marines, veterans and their families gathered to remember some of their own. They donned symbols of current and long ago wars, covering their hats, lapels and leather motorcycle vests, and sat surrounded by the names of the fallen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Lejeune Memorial Gardens, April 28.
The Jon Panarese Chapter 654 of the Vietnam Veterans of America held Vietnam Recognition Day with the support of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in remembrance of the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
Some came to honor memories. To pay their respects they ran their fingers over the names on the glass walls of the Vietnam War Memorial.
“Brotherhood brought me here,” said Raymond Byrns, a retired gunnery sergeant. “We get together every year to recognize what’s on the wall.”
Vietnam veterans were a generation of warriors who overcame hardships and created a powerful, active veteran identity.
“When we came home we didn’t get any recognition,” said John Warman, a retired gunnery sergeant. “We got rocks thrown at us. They called us baby killers, but now the public is showing respect to the old warriors and the new ones.”
The ceremony honored the lost Marines with stories from their time on the battlefield. Some came to spend time with their fellow veterans. But for those who want to visit and connect with their fallen brothers, the memorial is always there.
“You can come here in the middle of the night and be left alone with your thoughts,” said Byrns.
The memorial features a fountain surrounded by pillars and housed in glass walls. It is neighbored memorials of other fallen Americans with a single steel beam from the World Trade Center and with a monument honoring the victims of the Beirut bombing.
Byrns said he found the playing of taps to be the most touching part of the ceremony.
“It hits right here,” said Byrns, pointing to his heart. “I have my cousin on that wall. I have three of my fellow tankers on that wall. It tugs at your heartstrings. It makes you remember. You see the different faces you knew.”
The ceremony included a reading of North Carolina service members who are still listed as missing in action or prisoners of war. Members of Rolling Thunder Chapter NC-5, a group dedicated to POW and MIA service members, took turns reading the names. Some voices boomed with pride and some strained under the weight of those left behind. City officials read proclamations, giving their support to those touched by the war and sharing their memories.
John Hare, a retired Marine who served 25 years in the Corps, said he tries to make it to all functions such as the Vietnam Recognition Day ceremony. He served three tours in Vietnam and has a plaque at the foot of the glass walls that honors fellow recon Marines and corpsman.
“If I don’t come, I let my men down,” said Hare. “It’s my duty to keep their memories alive.”
Hare remembers the hill battles of Khe Sahn in 1967. Three years later he lost an entire team to the war.
“I can’t find them because their names are all over,” said Hare. The memorial has the names organized alphabetically and does not group them based on battles or units. “After 40 years, it’s hard to remember everybody’s name.”
The same year he lost the team, Hare found himself pulled out of combat prematurely when bullets pierced his shoulder and side. The Vietnam Recognition Day ceremony also marked the anniversary of the day he received his purple heart.
Thirty-two years after his retirement he still comes to celebrate and honor his fellow Marines. He said he wants to encourage members of the current generation of Marines to do the same and to become involved with veteran organizations.
John Matson, the director of the local chapter of VVA, shared similar sentiments.
“It will show them that they won’t be forgotten,” said Matson. “No matter where they’re from or what era, we honor those who serve whether it’s Vietnam, Korea, World War II, or the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
John Faust, a retired Marine, said events like this give young Marines a new perspective of a history that they may sometimes forget.
“If the young Marines want to know what they stand for and what legacy they’re following they need to attend one of these,” said Faust.
This work, Marines remember fallen brothers during Vietnam Recognition Day ceremony, by LCpl Jackeline Perez Rivera, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.