Father and son reunited, on Vietnam Memorial
May 31, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Crowds walked slowly past the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall on Monday, studying the names etched in black granite of thousands of soldiers and others who died or are missing from the Vietnam War.
A ceremony will be held later on Memorial Day to honor the five newest additions, including Richard Fitzgibbon Jr., officially classified recently as the first U.S. soldier killed in the conflict that ended in 1975.
The Pentagon recognition after years of family lobbying is bittersweet for the Fitzgibbon family of Stoneham, Massachusetts, who not only lost Richard Jr. in 1956, but his son, Richard Fitzgibbon III, in 1965. They are the only father and son who died in Vietnam.
"It'll give us a place to go every Memorial Day, as often as we want, and a place for my mother to go and visit and just say hello," said Trudy McDermott, who lost her brother and father.
In Virginia, President Bill Clinton laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
Just before the Memorial Day weekend, soldiers took part in a tradition spanning 40 years by placing small U.S. flags in front of more than 250,000 graves and niches at the cemetery.
Throughout the United States, Americans on Monday held celebrations to honor soldiers and civilians who died for their country in battle, a tradition that began after the Civil War.
In Freemont, New Hampshire, war buddies attended a ceremony for former Army Sgt. Tom McGall, a Vietnam veteran who took part in the battle of hill 937, later known as "Hamburger Hill."
McGall, who was presented with a Silver Star Medal for bravery, recalled a time when "uncommon valor was common."
"We weren't heroes," he said. "When you see a friend cut down, wounded, some of them dying ... you don't leave them," he said, choking back tears.
Correspondent Bill Delaney and Reporter Ray Brewer contributed to this report.
Veterans concerned national cemeteries are filling up
Arlington National Cemetery
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