In alphabetical order they read from Charles Edward Aaron to Nickolaus Charles Zozula. In between there are more than 1,500 other names on the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Worcester.
On Saturday, veterans from across the state and around the country will gather in Green Hill Park for ceremonies to mark the 10th anniversary of the memorial.
This event was planned before the Pentagon announced its commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the start of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The national Vietnam Veterans Memorial was rededicated on Memorial Day as part of that commemoration.
It took a long time for Massachusetts to honor its Vietnam veterans. The Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was formed in the 1980s, but that effort failed to materialize in any memorial. Then a group in Worcester picked up the torch and formed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Trust and initiated a design competition in 1989.
Harby, Rogers and Catanzaro of Belmont won the competition. The winning design features three "places:" a Place of Flags, a Place of Words and a Place of Names. The Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on June 9, 2002.
On Saturday the 1,537 names on the memorial will be read. There will also be a wreath-laying ceremonial at the memorial's War Dog Monument. It's the nation's first monument to specifically recognize the crucial contribution canines made during the Vietnam War.
"Over 4,000 dogs served alongside their handlers for the allies during the Vietnam War," said Michael Lemish, an author and military dog historian. "They worked as sentries, scouts, trackers and as detectors for mines, tunnels and booby-traps. These dog teams were responsible for averting over 10,000 casualties — a fact often overlooked by historians and not known by many Americans."
Four dog handlers from Massachusetts were killed in the war, and dog handlers and their dogs from across America are expected to attend Saturday's ceremony.
The Place of Words at the memorial in Worcester contains the letters home from 13 Massachusetts soldiers who were killed in Vietnam. Here's a portion of one of them:
Well, today is Christmas and you would never guess what happened to me. I went on patrol during the truce today and we got into a firefight. I was putting my men in position on the other side of a rice paddy when a sniper opened up and shot me right in the ass.
They took me to sick bay so now I'm laying here writing. The captain said he was going to give me a Purple Heart tomorrow so the first chance I get I'm going to mail it home. I just hope I don't get any more while I'm over here ....
I have to go now, so take care.
Love and miss you very much,
Douglas Allen Young was an 18-year-old Marine from Dorchester. He was killed in Quang Nam, South Vietnam, on Feb. 18, 1967.
This program aired on June 1, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.