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Name To Be Added To The Wall

03 May 2009


The name of a Marine who died as a result of wounds sustained in the combat zone during the Vietnam War will be inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial next week.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Valdez's name will be added to Panel 17W, Row 51 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial during a press event on Tuesday, May 5, at 3 p.m. In case of rain, the date will be moved to May 6. His four children will be on hand to watch his name being added to The Wall.

“We will add Gunnery Sgt. Valdez’s name as close as possible to his date of casualty, so he can remain in the company of those he served with,” said Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

In a short ceremony before the name addition, JC Cummings, AIA, the architect of record for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, will offer some history of the Memorial and the addition of names. Expert stoneworker James Lee of Colorado-based Engrave Write, who will be adding the names, will give details about the process. Memorial Fund President Jan Scruggs will offer remarks. A member of Valdez's family will also speak.

Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Valdez was from Sante Fe, New Mexico. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in November 1955, serving for a total of 14 years, with several tours of duty in Vietnam. On his last tour, beginning in March 1969, he was serving with B Company, First Battalion of the First Marine Division. He was wounded on Aug. 26, 1969, when his spinal cord was severed by shrapnel. The wound left him quadriplegic, and when Valdez succumbed to pneumonia on Feb. 4, 1994, it was determined by the U.S. Marine Corps to be directly attributable to the wounds he received in Vietnam.

In addition to adding Valdez’s name to The Wall, Lee and his crew will also change the designations of five others. “Designation” refers to the symbol that has been inscribed beside every name on The Wall. A diamond symbol denotes confirmed death. The cross represents missing in action. When a service member’s remains are returned or accounted for, the diamond is superimposed over the cross. This year, symbols will be changed for these individuals:

Lt. Cmdr. Ralph C. Bisz, U.S. Navy, Miami, Fla.
Sr. Master Sgt. James K. Caniford, U.S Air Force, Frederick, Md.
Maj. John L. McElroy, U.S. Air Force, Schenectady, N.Y.
Maj. Barclay B. Young, U.S. Air Force, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Col. David H. Zook Jr., U.S. Air Force, West Liberty, Ohio.

James Lee and the Engrave Write team will be in Washington, D.C. for several days to add the name and make designation changes. A variety of factors, including the weather and where the sun is hitting The Wall, determine when each can be made. When names are added, the highly technical procedure requires meticulous work to match the stroke and depth of the surrounding names to within one-thousandth of an inch.

The Speakers
Jan C. Scruggs is the founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. With $2,800 of his own money, he began the effort in 1979 to build a memorial to all who served and sacrificed in Vietnam. His dream became a reality on November 13, 1982, when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated.

James Lee has performed the name additions for many years through his former company, Great Panes Glassworks. Now with Engrave Write, he continues making the inscriptions for The Wall. Before adding Valdez’s name, Lee will explain some of the technical aspects of the work.

JC Cummings, AIA, is the architect of record for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He worked for the Cooper Lecky architectural firm that helped build The Wall back in 1982.

Adding Names
Next week’s change will bring the total number of names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to 58,261 men and women who were killed or remain missing in action.

The new name will become “official” when it is read aloud during the annual Memorial Day Ceremony at The Wall on Monday, May 25, at 1:00 p.m.

The Department of Defense sets the criteria for and makes decisions about whose names are eligible for inscription on The Wall. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund pays for the name additions and status changes, and works with the National Park Service to ensure long-term preservation and maintenance of The Wall.

Dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built to honor all who served with the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam War. It has become known as an international symbol of healing and is one of the most-visited memorials on the National Mall.

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