Ceremony on Mother’s Day to honor seven name additions, five status changes to The Wall

Each spring, VVMF works with the Department of Defense (DOD) to ensure that The Wall is accurate. When MIAs are recovered in Vietnam or when an appeal has been approved for addition to The Wall, VVMF makes the appropriate changes. On Mother’s Day, *seven new names will be honored after taking their rightful place among their fallen brothers and sisters. Please join the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in honoring the new names that will be added to The Wall on Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. Each year, new names are added to The Wall to fix clerical errors and mistakes, and to honor those veterans who died as a direct result of their wounds sustained while in Vietnam.

The seven men who will be honored as name additions to The Wall are as follows. Their information can also be seen here.


*The name of Charles Staten will also be added to The Wall in 2015. His name was withheld from being added in 2014 because of a spelling error, and while VVMF honored him at last year’s ceremony, VVMF will officially engrave his name leading up to Mother’s Day, 2015.

The statIMG_1355uses of five men, whose names are listed on The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, will also be changed and honored during the Name Additions on Mother’s Day Ceremony on May 10, 2015. Once Missing in Action (MIA), all five of these men were accounted for in the past year. VVMF will change the symbols beside their names to indicate this. Each name on The Wall  includes a symbol designating status. The diamond symbol denotes that the service member’s death was confirmed. A cross means the individual is missing or a prisoner at the end of the war and remains unaccounted for. In the event a serviceman’s remains are returned or he is accounted for, the diamond is superimposed  over the cross. The following men have been accounted for:

James Lee Vanbendegom

Staff Sergeant, E5

Date of Birth: 28 November 1948vanbendegom

Home of Record: Kenosha, Wis.

Date of Death: 12 July 1967

Panel 23E, Line 65

James Lee Vanbendegom, a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant, was conducting a search and rescue mission along the Cambodian border in July of 1967. Their position was overrun, and Vanbendegom, along with most of his platoon, were captured by the North Vietnamese. He is remembered as a “hometown hero” and a “guardian angel” by others in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He remained unaccounted for until October 17, 2014.


William Earl Cooper

Colonel, OF5

Date of Birth: 24 September 1920cooper

Home of Record: Albany, Ga.

Date of Death: 24 April 1966

Panel 6E, Line 131

William Earl Cooper was a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force from Albany, Georgia. In April of 1966, Col. Cooper was part of a multi-plane strike force. His plane was hit by an enemy launched service-to-air missile before it reached the target. Cooper was awarded the Air Force Cross as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic actions. He was identified in December of 2014, and has a military marker in Arlington Cemetery.

Douglas David Ferguson

Captain, O3

Date of Birth: 26 April 1945ferguson

Home of Record: Tacoma, Wash.

Date of Death: 30 December 1969

Panel 15W, Line 110

Douglas David Ferguson was a captain in the U.S. Air Force. On December 30, 1969, he was on an armed-reconnaissance mission when his F-4D Phantom II aircraft crashed in Laos. Ferguson always dreamed of becoming a pilot, and his heroism as a pilot earned him the Silver Star. His family remembers that”Doug often found humor in life’s goofy situations or sometimes even in the terrifying events of war.” He was identified on March 5th, 2014, and was returned home to Tacoma, Washington.

Francis J McGouldrick Jr.

Colonel, OF5

Date of Birth: 19 December 1928mcgould

Home of Record: New Haven, Conn.

Date of Death: 13 December 1968

Panel 36W, Line 17

Francis J McGouldrink Jr., a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force,  was flying a night mission over Laos when radio contact with him was lost. Air Force officials felt he was one of two planes involved in a mid-air collision. He is remembered by fellow soldier Gary Leach as “a true professional and a great friend.” He was identified in September of 2013, and was returned home, and interred in Arlington Cemetery.


Melvin Wayne Finch

Captain, O3

Date of Birth: 10 November 1944

Home of Record: Ft. Belvoir, Va.

Date of Death: 30 March 1972

Panel 2W, Line 125

Melvin Wayne Finch was a  Captain in the Army from St. Belvoir, Virginia. Finch was onboard an OH-6A on a combat mission in South Vietnam on March 30, 1972. The mission was a recon of a bunker-hooch complex about 12 miles west-southwest of Kontum. During the mission, small arms fire downed the helicopter. Finch and SP4 Blackwood, also on the aircraft, got out of the crashed helicopter alive. (Note: It was later learned that CAPT Melvin W. Finch died of dysentery in September 1972 while a POW on Ho Chi Minh Trail being taken north. This information came from ARVN who was with him. His remains were returned 14 August 1985.

VVMF says ‘Welcome Home’ to these five veterans who are now accounted for and the veterans whose names will be added to the memorial. Thank you for your service.

For information about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including adding names to The Wall, click here. To find information on someone whose name is on The Wall, visit our online database.

Communications Intern Kalli McCoy contributed to this blog.