The families of most of the 110 war casualties whose names were recently added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will gather at the black granite walls for a special ceremony today.
More than 400 family members from across the nation are expected to attend the 2 p.m. ceremony and to see the newly inscribed names for the first time.
The names are those of 97 servicemen who died during the war but outside the war zone, and of 13 who later died of wounds received in Vietnam. They were added to the names of 58,022 men and women in the military who died in the war zone.
The names include Kenny Shook, 21, who died in a plane crash at Wake Island in 1968 as he and 55 others were returning to the United States. He had a 30-day pass and was heading home to marry his high school girlfriend and to celebrate his parents' 25th wedding anniversary.
"Kenny was my only son, and I think it's due him to have his name on that memorial," said Eula Shook, 74, of Dayton, Va., who will be among today's honored guests. "I am working hard to get up my strength for the ceremony in Washington. I'm working on a cheerful mood because Kenny wouldn't want me to cry," she said.
She recalled the day she and her husband took their son and a friend "over the mountain" to Roanoke for his Air Force physical examination.
"He came out of that door clapping his hands and full of joy because he had done so well on the exam," she said. "We had always wanted him to go to college, but he had decided to volunteer for the military."
Stuart Scurlock, a 31-year-old carpenter from Falls Church, also will be at the memorial today because the name of his older brother Allen has been carved in the wall. Allen Scurlock, 22, was killed in 1971 in a helicopter crash at sea.
At the time, the Scurlock family lived in Reston and Stuart Scurlock was a high school senior. "We insisted that the Marine bugler play reveille instead of taps at the memorial service," he said. "He loved being a pilot, and we celebrated the good things about his life at the service."
His brother's helicopter crashed after takeoff from the carrier Guam. "His was the second to crash," Scurlock said. "They didn't ground them until a third helicopter crashed. They told us that the problem was a faulty nut that held the propellers."
He said he has a sense of foreboding about today's ceremony. "I'm worried that they will make the service solemn," he said. "I never felt like that about my brother's death because he was doing what he liked. I will have to do something to liven it up. I will smile a lot, for starters."
Shook and Scurlock said they first heard that the name of their family members had been added to the memorial when contacted by reporters after the Vietnam Memorial Family Search committee released the 110 new names.
Rebecca Kirtland, director of the search committee and the Memorial Day events, said the group in three months had found relatives of all but nine of the 110.
"Family members are paying their own way, but we have arranged for discounted plane tickets and hotel accommodations," she said. "We have planned a simple, moving, family-oriented service. It won't be stuffy. It is geared for ordinary Americans."
The names of five other Maryland and Virginia residents are included in the list of 110. They are: Charles Fink, Bedford, Va.; Alan Stewart, Baltimore; Fred Gates II, Centreville, Md.; Charles Moran Jr., Staunton, Va., and Douglas Murphy, Chester, Va.
The original design for the memorial called for all the names to be inscribed in chronological order based on the date of death. The new names were inserted very close to the correct date locations on the wall panels, Kirtland said.
"It was a brillant design," she said. "With a justified right margin, there was enough space on the left left to accommodate additional names."
The names were added after the Defense Department changed the definition of "combat casualty" in September 1985 to include "any deaths which occurred as a result of aircraft accidents en route or return from a direct combat mission to bomb, strafe or perform surveillance or targets within the defined combat area."