It’s Time to Honor Fallen Heroes—Past and Present: We’ll Honor Generations of Warriors at the Education Center at The Wall

By Jan C. Scruggs

Next week, the work to add 10 names to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial will take place in Washington DC. On May 13, many will gather for a poignant event at The Wall, when the name of David Lawrence Deckard will be unveiled. I want you to know the story of his family. The story needs to be told.

A native of Kentucky and known to his family as “Larry”, Army Specialist Deckard was drafted while living in Indiana and completed his training at Fort Knox, KY. He was sent to Vietnam and served with HHC, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Gravely injured on March 24, 1969 when a B-40 rocket hit is armored personnel carrier, David Deckard suffered massive shrapnel wounds to the upper part of his body. According to his brother Virgil, also a Vietnam veteran, Larry only remembered waking up days later in a hospital bed in Japan. He was evacuated to Walter Reed General Hospital in D.C. and was paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life.

David Deckard received two Purple Hearts for his service, and was also diagnosed with chronic respiratory failure resulting from injuries received in combat, prior to his death on Jan. 6, 2006.

Throughout their lives, Virgil and David Deckard remained very close; they both loved to work on cars and go fishing together. Virgil first visited The Wall with his family 1992, and reports that it was a very difficult and moving experience. He says that it will be even more so now that his brother’s name is being etched into the black granite.

But it’s also especially difficult for Virgil and other family members because they recently lost another family member during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Army Sgt. Matthew Deckard of Elizabethtown, KY was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga. He was killed on Sept. 16, 2005 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his M1A1 Abrams tank during a patrol operation in Baghdad. He was 29 years old, and he was Virgil Deckard’s son.

“So many soldiers have paid the ultimate price, and we should never forget them,” Virgil Deckard says. “There are just too many people that don’t care for this country or the people who gave all, but it’s nice to know that some do.”

Although separated by a generation and having served in different conflicts, these two fallen warriors – both members of the same family – will one day be reunited in the memories of all who visit the Education Center at The Wall, a place on our National Mall where our military heroes’ stories and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Recently, VVMF offered a “Welcome Home” to members of the U.S. Armed Forces returning from war in Iraq, and pledged that when completed, The Education Center at The Wall will honor the men and women who, just like the Deckards,  have served in all wars and are part of America’s legacy of service. We are proud to honor and include those who bore the burden of service in Iraq and who are currently fighting in Afghanistan.

Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have served with pride and bravery. Much like the heroes who served in Vietnam, they have done their best for their country, for each other and for the people of those countries. They will be rightly honored at the Education Center.

As I was writing this, a poem written by Archibald MacLeish came to mind.

The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak

The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?

They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.

They say: We were young. We have died.
Remember us.

They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.

They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.

They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.

They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.

We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.