Stories of Those on The Wall

Dreams Unfulfilled: Stories of the Men and Women on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial 


Compiled by Jan C. Scruggs

Founder and President Emeritus

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Taken from the book, Dreams Unfulfilled, published in 2010.


They Served With Us


An American Hero: 1st Lt. William Ragin

            Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret.)

Two Outstanding and Heroic Marine Corporals: Jack Sutton and James Cannington Jr.

            Marshall N. Carter

Remembering Sgt. Tom Young, USMC

            Dale Dye

The Only U.S. Military Woman KIA in Vietnam: 1st Lt. Sharon Lane

            Janie Blankenship

Remembering Max: Lance Cpl. Muriel Groomes

            Justin “Jerry” Martin

I Don’t Remember His Name

            Sara McVicker


They Were Our Family


A Simple Day: Cpl. Jose Montes

            Yolanda Acevedo

My Cousin Jean: Sgt. Jean Kraus

            Lt. Col. Janis Nark, USAR, (Ret.)

He Was Brilliant—And Nice: 1st Lt. Jonathan Shine

            Col. Alexander P. Shine, USA (Ret.) and Gail Caprio

Overcoming Incredible Odds: Lt. Col. Anthony Shine 

            Anthony, Colleen, Shannon and Bomette “Bonnie” Shine

Living Life to the Fullest: Spec. 4 Keith Campbell

            Judy C. Campbell

An Ideal Son: Cpl. Rex Sherman

            Ann Sherman Wolcott

Santa Barbara’s Almost-Mayor: Maj. William Cordero

            Tony Cordero

His Great Love: Spec. 5 Earl Tharp Jr.

            Jane (Tharp) Woodruff

Bob Cupp: A Son and Brother: Cpl. Robert Cupp

            Emogene Cupp and Sue Rampey

A True Soldier: Sfc. James Bunn

            Rachel Bunn Clinkscale


They Were Our Friends


A Spirit that Does Not Compromise: Capt. Humbert Versace

            Michael Heisley

My Silent Partner: Capt. Robert Farrington

            Barbara L. Smith


They Inspire Us


Honoring the Grandfather I Never Met: Spec. 4 Joel Coleman

            Megan Rihn

Learning about a Hometown Hero: Cpl. Michael Pynnonen

            McKenzie Mathewson and Shannon Kievit

Remembering 612 Connecticut Heroes

            Tom Dzicek

With Dreams to Pursue: Remembering Two Young Men:  Sgt. Michael P. Lyden and 2 Lt. William Smoyer

            James Wright

Never Stop Trying: Maj. Clifton Cushman

            Jan C. Scruggs


We Lost Them Later


An Old Man’s Folly: Elmo Zumwalt III

            Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr.

A Lifelong Dream of Flight: Vincent J. Kelly

            Patricia Kelly

Eulogy for Chris Benedict

            Ed Chavez


The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is names—more than 58,000 names of men and women who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War.

Although it was controversial when it was built, the Memorial is now widely considered a successful work of art. To the visitor, it is a stunning reminder of just how many lives were lost during one of our nation’s longest and most divisive wars. When you visit the Memorial, the sheer volume of names is inescapable.

Millions of people visit The Wall each year. For some, it is another stop on an agenda filled with tourist attractions. But for others, it is a special visit to see and touch the name of a loved one enshrined forever on our National Mall, maybe to leave a note or personal item in remembrance. Veterans overwhelmed by emotion come to pay their respects. Friends and family remember loved ones lost decades ago. Parents show names to their children, and talk about why that person was special.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is not just a wall of names to me. When I look at those names, I am reminded that hundreds of them served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam, as I did. About 25 of the names inscribed in black granite are people I knew well—having either served with them or having known them in my youth. When I go to The Wall, I remember and mourn them. I see their faces. I think of all the dreams they had that were left unfulfilled.

It is important for us to honor these people who served and sacrificed for their country. But, we should also remember that they were people, just like us. They enjoyed crazy adventures with high school friends. They had crushes, fell in love and got married. Some even had children. They were people with special talents and many goals. Some wanted to be soldiers or pilots; others wanted to be doctors, nurses or ministers. Some excelled at sports. Others liked fast cars or motorcycles. Some had children they cherished and missed when they were away. Others had children they never met. There are so many stories on The Wall—stories of people as diverse as our nation itself.

That is why the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund created this book. We wanted to remind everyone that the names on The Wall are more than names; they represent unique people with hopes, dreams and desires—people who were loved and who are missed every day by someone they left behind.

VVMF is working now to build an Education Center at The Wall on the National Mall, near the Lincoln and Vietnam Veterans Memorials, which will take this concept of remembrance to a new level. The underground structure will showcase their pictures and tell some of their stories. It will display some of the more than 100,000 items that have been left in tribute at The Wall since it was dedicated. The Education Center will honor those who served and sacrificed not just in Vietnam, but in all of America’s wars—including those who are in harm’s way today, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are hoping that the American public will support this project and help us collect photos and stories. Visit to learn more.

In this book, our contributors wrote about their family, their friends and the people they served with. There is a special section with stories written by those who never met the people whose names are on The Wall, but were inspired by them. Another section contains stories about people who died later as a result of the Vietnam War—from conditions such as cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure and complications from post traumatic stress disorder. Although their names are not on The Wall, their sacrifices are no less great.

The men and women who served and sacrificed in Vietnam, whether they came home or not, were an extraordinary group of people. I hope you enjoy reading about some of them.