Honoring Two Lost Comrades
In 1998, Elmer Wetzel made his first trip to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. and looked for the names of his buddies from the 196th Helicopter Assault Company.
“I was crying so hard,” Wetzel said.
Amidst the tears, he was able to find the name Vidal Sanchez, Jr. on panel 19E, row 112. Spc. Sanchez was a beloved aircraft repairman who died in a helicopter crash on May 13, 1967. Known for his big smile, he was a fellow member of the Army’s 196th Helicopter Assault Unit after joining from Shiloh, N.J.
Moments later, Wetzel found the name of the friend he new as “Tiny.” On panel 25E, row 16 “Tiny” is listed by his birth name: Randall G. Jacob. Spc. Jacob was killed while securing a perimeter after the crash landing of his Army Chinook helicopter. Tiny was known by his friends as a smart and friendly young man.
Like Jacob and Sanchez, Wetzel was part of the support crew for the 196th Helicopter Assault Company. Wetzel worked as a plumber; within the camp, he was very popular because he was the one who could get them hot water for showers. After serving for a year in Vietnam, he returned to Cedarburg, Wis. and worked as an electrician and plumber.
When he went back to Cedarburg after his trip to Washington, D.C., he felt a need to honor his friends; he began donating to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. In early 2012, with the launch of the Faces Never Forgotten program, Wetzel saw an opportunity to remember the stories of his friends and of all who served in the Vietnam War in the Education Center at The Wall.
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 the photos and make financial contributions to build the Education Center. The outcome of the program will ensure that this vital piece of history will be remembered and honored by visitors from around the globe for generations to come. VVMF does not have a photo for Sanchez.
Through a series of monthly donations, Wetzel gave a significant contribution to the Faces Never Forgotten program in the memory of Jacob and Sanchez. His donations will make certain that the memory of his friends “Tiny” and Vidal will bring others to tearful recollection of their service and sacrifice.