Brian Baker and his wife, Leslie, stood pensively in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial yesterday after leafing through the thick directory at the end of the wall to find the name of Donald L. Jones.
After scanning the wall for a few moments, they crouched down while Mr. Baker quietly made a pencil rubbing of the name.
The man was the first fiance of Mrs. Baker’s mother and died in the Vietnam War, Mr. Baker said. He and his wife, who were in town from Glenview, Ill., also made a pencil rubbing of another family friend who died in the war.
The couple were among thousands who paid tribute to loved ones lost in war in honor of Father's Day. During an annual ceremony at the memorial yesterday morning, 1,500 red, yellow and white roses tied to remembrance notes were placed at the base of the memorial.
Red roses are placed for soldiers killed in Vietnam, yellow for soldiers missing in action and white for those who have died in the war in Iraq.
“It is important for this nation never to forget the sacrifices its service members made during the Vietnam War,” said Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, who presided at yesterday’s event.
“For the thousands of fathers who never made it home, that sacrifice was borne by the entire family. Today’s ceremony gives the children of these brave service members a place to gather together and honor their fathers. For many, this is a place where they can feel closer to the fathers they said goodbye to so long ago,” Mr. Scruggs said.
Throughout the rest of the day, hundreds of people crowded the sidewalk along the wall, most of them searching for the names of relatives, loved ones and acquaintances who died in combat.
Tim Klawitter, 64, a physicist from Fairfax who was in the infantry during the Vietnam War, said he visits the wall occasionally to honor old comrades.
As the sun beat down yesterday, he began seeking the numerous names of his friends and associates engraved in the wall.
“They’re scattered throughout here,” Mr. Klawitter said, waving his hand at the long, black wall.
Ellen Anderson, 59, in town from Caney, Okla., to visit her sister, visited the memorial with her husband, Ronnie, who served 29 years in the Navy and Army. She called the experience surreal.
“This was kind of like a real dream for us,” Mrs. Anderson said.
Mr. Anderson, 63, who recently retired from the service, said he and his wife were especially grateful this Father's Day because their son, Jason, an Army soldier, recently returned home safely after serving in Iraq for a year.