Remembering comrades at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLUC) - The U.P. Honor Flight gives our veterans a chance to reflect on their time in the service. Most veterans on Mission XVIII of the Honor Flight served during Vietnam.
At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Wednesday, they etched names of people they served with, shared stories of their comrades and recalled their time in the military.
Among them was James Dougovito, a Second Lieutenant and Silver Star recipient – the third-highest military recognition.
In September 1969, Lt. Dougovito was leading his platoon when he and his point man were injured. Dougovito carried his point man to safety and went back to fight. The enemy retreated.
But his focus was on finding his friend among the more than 58,000 names.
“He went by Rocky Versace, and he was a friend of my older brother. Rocky, when he finished with school, he went to West Point and then he was an Army ranger and of course, went to Vietnam as an advisor,” said Lt. Dougavito.
When Versace left for Vietnam, it was the last time he would see his family.
“While in Vietnam he was captured by the Viet Cong and escaped successfully but captured again and then executed by the Viet Cong,” said Lt. Dougavito.
Dougovito says Versace is the only POW to be awarded the Medal of Honor by George W. Bush. While many won’t recognize Versace’s name on the wall, they might know his mother’s name.
“His mother under the pen name Tere Rios wrote the Flying Nun. It had a movie with Sally Fields,” said Lt. Dougavito.
Many of the Vietnam veterans on Wednesday’s journey to D.C. had names they wanted to find at the memorial. Dennis Swanson found his friend’s name after years of not knowing what happened to him.
“I happened to find his name on the wall, which would have happened within six months after he left, and the last time that I saw him,” said Dennis Swanson, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.
In addition to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Honor Flight stopped at seven other memorials.
“It was cool. It was special getting to see everything, a lot of people, the other veterans,” said Robert Dennis, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.
But for Dougavito, seeing Versace’s name on the wall was a somber experience.
“A lot of young men and women lost their lives as a result of that war and of course any war. We’ve lost millions over the course of our history,” said Lt. Dougavito.
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