Fallen Vietnam War Veterans Are Remembered

Fallen Vietnam War Veterans Are Remembered

Honoring their ‘unwavering courage, resilience, dedication to duty.’

Veterans standing with the memorial wreath are (from left) David Gundry, Mike Fant, Cherie Fuchs, Link Spann, James Johnston, John Weaver, Ahsan Nasar and Mac Carl.

Veterans standing with the memorial wreath are (from left) David Gundry, Mike Fant, Cherie Fuchs, Link Spann, James Johnston, John Weaver, Ahsan Nasar and Mac Carl.

Each year, Americans recognize their military veterans on the Memorial and Veterans Day holidays. But few think about them on National Vietnam War Veterans Day, March 29 – or even realize it exists.

However, military organizations in Fairfax City haven’t forgotten. And last Friday, March 29, they gathered at the Veterans Amphitheater outside City Hall to honor and remember them. These groups are the Fairfax County Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR); Fairfax Resolves Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution (SAR); VFW Post 8469 and American Legion Post 177.

“We are privileged to honor all Vietnam Veterans and their families today,” said DAR Regent Janice Dixon. “And we want to individually remember the 147 Fairfax County residents who died in Vietnam and are named on the plaque on the Veterans Monument on the lawn of [Fairfax City’s] historic courthouse.”

SAR color guard members (from left) are Jim Cordes, Larry McKinley, Rick Abbott and Forrest Crain.


Former Fairfax Mayor David Meyer, a chaplain with the SAR’s Fairfax Resolves, gave the invocation, saying this prayer was also for his Vietnam veteran father-in-law, Air Force Col. Charles Collins, who died last year. “We gather today to remember those persons who faithfully served our nation in Vietnam and the Greater Southeast Asia area, more than half a century ago,” he said. “For these brave men and women who bore the burden of battle, we acknowledge our debt.”

But, said Meyer, this debt isn’t paid just by appreciation, but by “supporting those veterans still with us and their families. Many veterans struggle with PTSD, addiction and the diagnosis of cancer that hangs over them like the Sword of Damocles. May all of us be unceasing advocates for active justice that heals and comforts them in each phase of later life.”

Acknowledging Vietnam veterans’ strength and fortitude, he also prayed that “their wisdom, gained slowly but steadily with each passing year, be imparted to a new generation of citizens who inherit the invaluable legacy of freedom, democracy and constitutional government.” 

Then the SAR color guard presented the colors and everyone attending said the Pledge of Allegiance.

“On this solemn occasion, let us pause and reflect on the profound sacrifices our Vietnam veterans have made for our nation,” said SAR Fairfax Resolves President Jon Rymer. “Their sacrifices in the jungles and rice paddies in Vietnam were a testament to their unwavering courage, resilience and dedication to duty. They faced unimaginable horrors and hardships, yet [continued] to defend our freedoms and the ideas upon which this country was founded.

“Many of our Vietnam veterans returned home to a nation divided by the war, and they faced prejudice and misunderstanding. But they carried on with dignity and honor. The experience forever shaped their lives, and many of them continue to serve our communities in countless ways. Today, we stand in awe of their bravery and sacrifice.”

“We’re eternally grateful for their service, and we pledge to never forget the lessons learned from that tumultuous period in our history,” continued Rymer. “Let us use this day to honor Vietnam veterans – both those who returned home and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. And let us reaffirm our commitment to seeing that our veterans and their families receive the care and respect they so richly deserve.”

Speaking next, VFW Post 8469 Commander Mac McCarl said National Vietnam War Veterans Day was first observed in 2012. “Today we join thousands of communities throughout the nation thanking and honoring Vietnam veterans and their families.” (Combat units withdrew from South Vietnam on March 29, 1973.)

American Legion Post 177 Commander Eric Parkhurst said this day honors the 9 million people who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces from Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975. American advisors were sent to support South Vietnam in 1955 and U.S. involvement eventually escalated. The first combat death was reported in 1959, with direct combat happening between 1965 and 1975. 

Parkhurst noted that the Vietnam veterans’ commemoration makes no distinction between those serving in Southeast Asia then or stationed elsewhere. He said they were all called to serve and had no choice where they were sent. “All were seen in the same way by a country that could not separate the war from the warriors,” said Parkhurst. “Each person serving during this period earned and rightly deserves our profound thanks.”

Before the names of Fairfax County’s fallen Vietnam veterans were read, Dixon explained that “When you say their names, they are not forgotten.” Those attending who were their relatives were recognized and applauded, and Dixon thanked them for the sacrifices they made that “enabled [their] loved ones to serve.” In addition, attendees who served then were also applauded and given a commemorative challenge coin.

As of Jan. 24, 2023, said Dixon, “Sadly, 1,553 Vietnam War veterans are still considered missing in action, and their families await word of their fate, as we continue our diligent work to fulfill our promise and bring them home.” Then, as each fallen veteran’s name was read, a yellow flower was placed into a memorial wreath. Afterward, attendees added flowers in remembrance of anyone who served during that war’s timeframe. 

Dixon said that, over the past 12 years, 27,000 ceremonies total have been held “in towns and cities across the country to thank and honor 3.9 million Vietnam veterans – a little over half of the 6.3 million Vietnam veterans living today.”

Meyer then gave a closing prayer, thanking God for Friday’s gathering and remembering those who’ve died. “We hold these persons in our hearts as a treasured remembrance,” he said. “May this season of rebirth and new life give us, the living, the healing, wholeness and hope for each new day.”

Following the ceremony, three local veterans discussed what brought them there. Burke’s John Weaver, a VFW member, grew up in Fairfax City and attended in memory of his father. “He was in the military and came here to establish a missile site on Popes Head Road in 1956, and that’s where we lived in Fairfax City,” said Weaver. “He was in the Army and fought in WWII and the Korean War. And I served in the Army in Vietnam.”

Similarly, Fairfax resident James Johnston said, “I came here to honor all Vietnam veterans, especially my dad, who served there in 1967. I also wanted to remember a lot of my schoolmates from college – University of Maryland’s Munich, Germany campus – who served in Vietnam. I enlisted in the Army in 1966 and was in Vietnam in the Signal Corps.”

Fairfax City’s David Gundry served in the Vietnam War with the Mobile Riverine Force on the Mekong River. “It was five ships that housed the 9th Infantry so they wouldn’t have to build a fort in the mud,” he explained. “I was in the Navy as an electronics technician. Then I worked in the repair facility at Camp Tien Sha in Da Nang and at a mobile one outside Tanmay.”

“When I came back from the war, people asked, ‘Where you been?’ That’s it,” said Gundry. “So it felt good to see this ceremony today.” After all, he added, choking up, “Somebody has to remember – and there’s so few who do.”

From left are Vietnam veterans John Weaver, James Johnston and David Gundry.

Jim Cordes reads names of the fallen while (from left) DAR members Janice Dixon, ret. Army Col. Cherie Fuchs and Suzy Mulligan listen.

Dressed as a Continental soldier, Rick Abbott reads some of the names.