Honoring a brother on The Wall and a husband lost to exposure to Agent Orange
When you look on Thomas Peacock’s Wall of Faces page, you see his high school senior portrait. He is wearing a dark suit and tie. He has a youthful face with deep, brown eyes and bushy eyebrows. His copper brown hair is bob length and bangs falls across the front of his face.
His sister, Sharon, wrote this on his Wall of Faces page in 2011: “You are always in my thoughts and prayers. I…will always miss you.”
Thomas was born on July 31, 1949 in McArthur, Ohio. He was drafted into the U.S. Army after high school and started his tour in Vietnam on August 25, 1969. On June 3, 1970, he lost his life while on a combat operation in the Kontum Province of Vietnam. He was 20 years old.
Sharon was 22 years old when her brother died and her life would never be the same.
“Tommy was always my little brother no matter what age,” Sharon said. “We were close growing up.” She describes him as very shy, but also very sweet. One of her favorite memories was when he would use her hair dryer to get his hair just perfect before leaving the house. “I loved to tease him about it,” she reminisced. “We were best friends.”
Thomas’ name is inscribed on Panel 9W, Line 5 of Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Eight years after losing her brother to combat, Vietnam changed Sharon’s life again. Her husband, James, would lose his life due to the lingering effects of the war. James passed away on February 28, 1978 – just three years after he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease related to his exposure to Agent Orange.
Sharon will be coming to Washington, D.C. this summer to honor James at the In Memory Ceremony, where he will be recognized along with 533 other Vietnam veterans who passed away as a result of their service. Their daughter, Anna Marie, her husband Will, and Jim’s granddaughters, Sarah and Jenna will be attending as well. During the ceremony, loved ones will get the chance to say their veteran’s name on the hill overlooking The Wall. Sharon will get to remember her husband a short distance away from where her brother’s name is inscribed. The In Memory Ceremony is set for Saturday, June 15.
James was born on October 27, 1946 in Wellston, Ohio. After finishing high school, he attended the Manpower Training Center in Jackson, Ohio. Once he graduated, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1966 and married Sharon one month before he left for Vietnam in December of 1967. James served with the 560th Lt. Maintenance Company and was stationed in An Khe. He returned to Ft. Lewis, Washington on December 24, 1968 and arrived home on Christmas Day of 1968.
Sharon says James was her first love. He was loving, dependable, civic-minded and patriotic. “He would help anyone who needed it,” she recalled. “He was a hard worker and could do just about anything he set his mind to.” She remembers their life being full of adventure. “We traveled, worked to build our home, and then God blessed us with our daughter.”
Their daughter, Anna Marie, was born on February 11, 1973. She was two when James was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and had just celebrated her fifth birthday when he passed away.
Sharon said that James was never properly recognized for his time in Vietnam. He also struggled to receive proper care when he fell ill. She hopes that the In Memory Ceremony will give him the honor he so justly deserves for all he endured after the war.
While The Wall in Washington, D.C. stands as a national symbol of recognition for her brother, the In Memory Ceremony will give her a place to pay tribute to her late husband as well. The day after the In Memory Ceremony, Sharon will remember both of them at the Father’s Day Rose Remembrance. Volunteers and loved ones will lay thousands of roses at the base of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Sharon will lay a rose for each of them. The roses will honor the fathers on The Wall, the men who didn’t have the chance to become fathers, and the fathers we lost too soon.
“I am so happy and grateful that I will be able to honor two of the men I dearly love and miss with a rose,” Sharon said. “It will give me peace of mind knowing I was able to do this for them.”
While they are no longer here physically, memories of them are never far from Sharon’s mind. She remembers James’ love of drag racing, fast cars, and four wheeling. She will never forget her brother’s shy and sweet demeanor, and his big brown eyes. When VVMF asked her how she wanted them to be remembered, she said for “their courage, patriotism, and sacrifice they gave for their county.”
Thomas and James died eight years apart – but the Vietnam War cut both of their lives short. This summer, Sharon will honor both of them in the place our nation has set aside to honor Vietnam veterans. A grateful nation will never forget them.