Sponsoring Names on The Wall

By Colonel David A. Napoliello, USA (Ret.)

Clockwise: SGT Daniel J. Sandsted, SSG Robert G. Hansen, PFC James W. Fous, MAJ Kevin O’Brien, and LT William M. Roark.

Clockwise: SGT Daniel J. Sandsted, SSG Robert G. Hansen, PFC James W. Fous, MAJ Kevin O’Brien, and LT William M. Roark.

The five men on The Wall that my wife and I have chosen to sponsor as part of the Faces Never Forgotten program lived

varied lives and were connected to us in different ways.  Though most of them pass through the memories of our years spent at Central High School in Omaha, NE, some I knew in other ways. The money donated in their honor will help fund the construction of the Education Center at The Wall so that their photos and stories can be displayed and highlighted for the millions of people who visit The Wall each year.

Three soldiers on The Wall were graduates of our 1964 class from Central; SGT Daniel J. Sandsted, SSG Robert G. Hansen, and PFC James W. Fous. These are men who grew up with us, had classes together, participated in extracurricular activities with us, and even shared some of the same dreams.  Dan, Bob and Jim would be our same age today; they would be looking forward to retirement and enjoying their grandchildren as we do.  We can only guess what great things they might have accomplished, had the Vietnam War not taken them from us. Their valor and sacrifice did not surprise us: Bob was awarded the Bronze Star, Dan the Silver and Bronze Stars, and Jim received the Medal of Honor and Bronze Star. They were heroes, one and all.

Navy Lt. William M. Roark also attended Central High School but he had graduated years before, in 1956. Bill was the first American pilot killed while on a bombing mission over North Vietnam; he was lost while we were in our first year of college. I gained another connection with Bill when the Navy chose to honor him by naming the second member of the Knox-class frigates in his honor. After I retired from active duty I joined the company and worked in the facility that made some of the USS Roark’s weapon systems. They were proudly built and destined for a ship with an honorable name and a courageous motto:  Victory Through Service.

MAJ Kevin O’Brien, a native of Farmingville, NY, and I met in Vietnam as we were both assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 94th Field Artillery.  Kevin was the first to greet me. I assumed his former duties in Bravo Battery as an artillery forward observer/fire direction officer while he carried out his new assignment as the battalion’s aerial observer flying in the Army O1G aircraft.  A few weeks later Kevin and his pilot, CPT Hugh Byrd, were lost in the mountainous region of Quang Tri Province.  I’ll never forget Kevin’s warmth to “the new guy.”  Months later I became the battalion’s aerial observer, flying the same areas and missions that Kevin and Hugh did and always looking over the harsh terrain hoping that we might see the wreckage.  We never did.

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David with his wife, Sharon.

David with his wife, Sharon.

Colonel David Napoliello served in the U.S. Army for 28 years, retiring after a distinguished career.  Napoliello’s awards and recognitions include the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, two awards of the Legion of Merit, five Meritorious Service Medals and six awards of the Air Medal.  He holds three master’s degrees and graduated Army Command and Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, the Army War College, and the Naval War College.

The Faces Never Forgotten program is an effort to put a face and a story to each name on The Wall through the generosity of those willing to help locate their photos and make financial contributions to build the Education Center. This program will ensure this vital piece of history will be remembered and honored by visitors from around the globe for generations.

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