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Vietnam Veterans Memorial adds names of 6 service members

By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 5, 2010; B04

Taylor Pontin ran her right index finger over the name of her brother, William L. Taylor, which had just been sand-blasted into the polished black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Back and forth she moved her finger, gently feeling the pristine gray letters etched in the surface of this most tactile of monuments.

She smiled at the sensation, as if reaching her brother through the stone -- "forever young, and strong and beautiful," as another relative said Tuesday of the those newly enshrined on the nation's memorial to the Vietnam war dead.

The occasion was the addition to the Wall of the names of six more people wounded during the war who recently died of their injuries. The event took place just days after the 35th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the end of the war.

These were men for whom the war, in a way, never ended.

The Pentagon ruled each one eligible for inclusion on the wall, which as of Tuesday bore 58,267 names, according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which created the memorial. A total of 328 names have been added since the wall was dedicated in 1982.

There was Taylor, "a native Washingtonian," his sister said, a graduate of Anacostia High School, and a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army. He was terribly burned and riddled with shrapnel on Sept. 21, 1970. "He carried [the war] all his life," his sister said.

They were still picking shrapnel out of him the week before he died last year at age 67 in a nursing home in Tampa.

There was Ronald M. Vivona, a Marine who lost both legs after his platoon walked into an ambush on Hill 700 at Khe Sanh on April 6, 1968. Vivona was felled by grenades and rifle fire. One bullet pierced the Marine Corps bulldog tattoo on his left arm, which, ever after, made the dog seem to be winking. Vivona died in 2008 at age 61 of hepatitis contracted from an old blood transfusion, his family said.

"It's kind of like an acknowledgment that in some ways he never came back," an old friend, Ron Main, said of his inclusion on the Wall.

There was Edward F. Miles, an Army captain who stepped on a land mine near Cu Chi on April 26, 1969. He lost both legs, his right eye and the use of his right arm but later helped in the crusade against land mines. "Never complained," his sister, Terry Jackson of Raleigh, N.C., said Tuesday. After the war, she said, he always had a nice car. "When he was driving a car he was just like everybody else," she said. But he was not like everyone else.

"Just to survive the initial horrendous injuries," she said. "Then to live 35 more years and turn it around to help people." When he died in 2004 at age 59, "we knew his name would be on the Wall. It was just right."

The ceremony took place on a breezy spring morning -- the blue sky and green grass a contrast to the black Wall. Five of the new names had been added over the past few days. The addition of Taylor's was completed Tuesday.

"The sun is rising on the faces of our fallen comrades," Harry Robinson, a member of the memorial fund's board of directors, said in opening the ceremony.

Relatives of five of the six men were on hand. They carried posters and folders bearing faded photos and news clippings of the men and spoke in moving terms of their loved ones.

In addition to Taylor, Miles and Vivona, the other additions were: John E. Granville, 58, a Marine who lost both legs in battle in 1968 and died in 2007; Clayton K. Hough Jr., 56, another Marine who lost both legs to a land mine in 1969 and died in 2004; and Michael J. Morehouse, 55, an Army sergeant who was wounded in 1969 and died in 2004.

Laura McGuffe said of her uncle "Kenny" Hough: "He returned from war half the man in body, and twice the man in spirit."

Chuck Groshong had a poster with old photos of his brother-in-law, John Granville. One showed a legless Granville sitting in a hospital bed getting a medal from a general. "He's a young man," Groshong said. "He's 19 at the time, I believe. You can still see the youth in his face. And the shock of his experience."

Linda Vivona, who drove down from New York for the ceremony, approached the podium in tears. "I cry a lot," she said. Her husband's name had been placed on the Wall near comrades who were killed the day he was wounded. "He loved the Marines. He loved his country. And he would be so, so proud to be on the Wall next to people that he fought with."

Terry Jackson read something her brother wrote about stepping on the land mine. He described being blown "10 feet into the air, where I revolved in a lazy circle and contemplated the deepest blue sky and most incandescent sunshine I've ever experienced."

"I am humbled in front of this Wall," she told the audience, "for those on it are forever young, and strong and beautiful and brave. May they rest in peace."

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