Father’s Day condolences, remembrances at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

WASHINGTON — It’s an annual tradition on Father’s Day at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. “Thank you for joining us on the annual Father’s Day rose ceremony,” says Jan Scruggs, Founder and CEO of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He says they’ve been doing this ceremony for nearly 20 years.

Nearly 2,000 roses were being placed at the wall in memory of those fathers who died either in Vietnam or as a result of that war. A wreath of roses was also placed at the wall in honor of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The roses were different colors: red, symbolizing killed in action, yellow for those still missing in action and a white rose with red tips for those who died as a result of the war, for example from Agent Orange.

Katie Yancey from Nashville, Tennessee came to remember and honor her late husband, Robert Yancey who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1964-1968. He also served in Vietnam.

Yancey says of her husband, “he was not killed in action.” But in December 2009, his wife says, he died from lung cancer due to Agent Orange.

On Sunday morning, she placed a rose by her husband’s name saying, “I lay my rose. I love you honey and I miss you terribly. And you will never ever be forgotten.”

Her husband’s sister Roberta Yancey and her husband’s friend Thomas Maxwell also placed roses by his name.

Gen. James Conway, the 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps and his wife carried the wreath of roses to the wall honoring the fallen from Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

He was the keynote speaker at this Father’s Day ceremony at the memorial. The general says while doing research for his speech, he was shocked to learn that, “70 percent of Vietnam veterans are dead.” He says that’s why ceremonies like this one are that much more important.

Gen. Conway says to those Vietnam veterans that remain that we owe them special thanks, maybe a hug, maybe an apology. He says they surely didn’t get a hero’s welcome home and somehow we need to make that right.