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Wife keeps promise to memorialize Vietnam veteran at wall
Ray Thompson came home from Vietnam in 1969 badly wounded, having lost four ribs, a kidney and his spleen, among other injuries the young Army radio operator sustained while serving his country in Southeast Asia.
But he didn’t give up on the radio, and that passion eventually led him to the love of his life and wife, Patty.
“We met on the CB radio and talked on it for seven months before we ever met in person,” she said Sunday morning, minutes before a touching ceremony to honor the addition of her late husband’s name to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington.
Ray Thompson took care of fellow servicemen and women at the veterans medical center in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Mrs. Thompson desperately wanted to see her late husband’s name on the wall.
The sacrifices of more than 58,000 men and women are honored there. Names are added each year, and the only stipulation is that the veteran died as a result of wounds suffered during the Vietnam conflict.
The process, however, is painstaking. Ray Thompson passed away in 2010, but it has taken this long for the Defense Department to approve his addition.
It wouldn’t have been in Ray’s nature, Mrs. Thompson said, to grapple with the federal government just to see his name etched into the black granite of the memorial wall.
But it’s most certainly in hers.
“Ray wasn’t a scrapper, but I am. I’ll take on the Chinese army,” Mrs. Thompson said as veterans and friends and families of the honorees gathered behind her on the Mall. “It was one of the last promises I made to him. It’s like a huge task has come to completion for me. He said, ‘You’ll never get my name on that wall.’ But I kept my promise to him.”
Spc. Raymond Clark Thompson was one of the four names added to the wall last week.
The others, ABE3 Clark David Franklin of New Mexico, Pfc. Lester James Veazey of Oklahoma, and Sgt. Dennis R. Siverling of Wisconsin, also were honored during the service, an event that, by design, coincided with Mother’s Day.
“Our mothers’ prayers brought us home,” Harry G. Robinson, a Vietnam veteran and renowned architect at Howard University, said at the ceremony.
Rep. Steven A. Horsford, Nevada Democrat and the keynote speaker, told the mothers and fathers of Vietnam veterans — and veterans of all other conflicts, before and since — that their children represent “the pinnacle of American heroism.”
“Your child embodies the values that make this country great,” he told members of the crowd, many of whom choked back tears.
Mrs. Thompson wants her husband’s children to remember that it was their father, an Indiana native who grew up with little money, who also embodied those values.
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About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
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