Captain Eugene “Red” McDaniel, brutally tortured as a prisoner of the Vietnam War, looks at the display honoring Alexandria’s POW/MIA veterans during a 2019 visit to the Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center.
Photo by Jeanne Theismann.
The strains of “God Bless America” were the last words anyone would hear from Capt. Humbert “Rocky” Versace before he was executed Sept. 26, 1963, while a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Versace, whose remains have never been found, is one of six Alexandrians listed as Missing in Action from the Vietnam War.
“There are 67 soldiers from Alexandria whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall,” said Col. Kevin Rue (ret.), a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and member of the Friends of Rocky Versace organization. “Six of those men, including Rocky, are still considered missing in action.”
National POW/MIA Recognition Day will be observed Sept. 18. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the city’s annual remembrance ceremony at the Capt. Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Del Ray will not be held.
First observed in 1979, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is a day when the nation pauses to honor returned prisoners of war, remember those U.S. military members and civilians who remain missing from past wars and to support ongoing search efforts to find those who have not been recovered.
In addition to Versace, other Vietnam MIAs from Alexandria include SSG Douglas R. Blodgett (USA), Maj. Joseph E. Davies (USAF), Maj. Morgan J. Donahue (USAF), Lt. Leland S. McCants (USA), and SMN App. John A. Winkler (USN). In Virginia, there are 45 Vietnam War MIAs.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 83,114 Americans who fought in wars dating back to World War II are still missing, including: 73,515 from World War II; 7,841 from the Korean War; 1,626 from Vietnam; 126 from the Cold War; and 6 from conflicts since 1991.
Seventy-five percent of those missing Americans are somewhere in the Asia-Pacific with more than 41,000 presumed lost at sea.
“Rocky was just two weeks away from heading home and entering the priesthood when he was captured,” Rue said. “He and the others made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It’s important to tell the story of each of these men and let their families know they will never be forgotten.”
Information on each of Alexandria’s Vietnam MIAs can be found online at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Wall of Faces website (https://www.vvmf.org/). Rue or the Friends of Rocky Versace can be contacted at FoRV59@gmail.com.