WASHINGTON (ABC7) — The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a place of honor, remembrance and love.
The black granite, etched with more than 58,000 names, is also a place of quiet contemplation.
“A lot of respect. All this going on,” Louis Smith said. “I’m just grateful for like, him being remembered, and not forgotten.”
Smith and his sister Sarah visited “The Wall,” as the memorial is known, to honor their father Meredith, who died last year from Agent Orange-related cancer.
“He was in the Vietnam War, very tragic,” Sarah said. “And we just miss him so much, so we are paying respects to him and everybody.”
The Smith siblings were pleasantly surprised to see hundreds of roses adorning the memorial: a Father’s Day tradition, now in its 28th year.
“Today is a day of remembrance,” said Heidi Zimmerman, a spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
For Zimmerman, this is very, very personal.
Her father, James Henderson, was a U.S. Air Force veteran who died in 2002 from prostate cancer after exposure to Agent Orange.
“It’s a hole in your life, it’s very different,” Zimmerman said. “For those of us that our fathers are not here, this is a way to come down and kind of have a special moment with them.”
The roses, carefully placed in rows along the granite, are in three colors:
Red to honor those killed in action, yellow for MIAs, and white with red tips in memory of those who came home and later died.
But it wasn’t a day for just families and fathers.
A group of neighbors and friends from the tiny Missouri town of Shelbina came to honor one of their own, who never got a chance to be a father.
His name was Ronald Cullers.
He was a USMC 2nd Lieutenant who was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Quang Tri Province as the Vietnam War was escalating.
“He was one of the first soldiers killed in ’66,” said Carla Harris, who went to high school with Cullers. “Everybody loved him. He had a sense of humor, he was a nice guy from a good family, wonderful family.”
Now, all these years later, Harris and some friends and neighbors are in the nation’s capital to honor a young life cut short.
They reminisced about Cullers’ funeral, attended by just about everyone in his hometown of about 3,000 people.
“We all just missed him, he’s the only one I knew that died in Vietnam,” Harris said. “Regret that he didn’t get the welcome home he deserved; that none of our vets got the welcome home they deserved.”
The roses, a symbol of honor, life and love.
Louis Smith says he’s grateful to be in the District.
A proper place, he says, to honor his fallen father.
“We know he loved us,” Smith said. “It’s sad that he’s gone now, but I know he’s still with us, and he’ll never be forgotten.”