Cove man participates in Vietnam Veterans Memorial ceremony
By LYNETTE SOWELL
During the days leading up to Veterans Day, the names of the 58,318 fallen service members whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. are read aloud.
This year, the 35th anniversary of “the Wall,” a Copperas Cove veteran is participating in the Reading of the Names this week while he is in Washington due to a work assignment.
Wayne Knutson, a retired E8 with 21 years of service, grew up as a “Gold Star” child, with his father, SFC Felix Delano Knutson, having been killed in action during the Vietnam War when Wayne was three-and-a-half months old and his brother was four-and-a-half.
“Human words can never accurately describe the opportunity or what it means to be able to read the names of fallen comrades, especially my own father’s, but to actually participate in this ceremony giving the invocation leaves me speechless,” Knutson said. “It is the raw emotion to speak from the heart with all that you believe and feel that give it meaning. I lost my composure in November 2012, started losing it during the invocation, and will assuredly do it again when I read my father’s name again on November 10, as well as the name of my mother-in-law’s cousin, LCPL Louis Schauteet, Jr., from Gonzales, Texas.”
Knutson’s turn to read the names will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern Time this evening. On Saturday, he plans to return to the Wall as a visitor, to remember.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund accepts volunteer registrations to participate in the reading of the names, but Knutson said he emailed the fund’s president and CEO Jim Knotts, asking if there was also another way he could volunteer, whether it be reading more names or helping in the volunteer tent.
To his surprise, after sharing his background and about his father, Knutson said he was asked to deliver the invocation during Tuesday’s opening ceremony at the Wall.
Knutson shared the reasoning he gave to Knotts for participating.
“Many who have some sort of association to the Vietnam War are getting older and at some point in time the stories about the lost military members, whether comical or heart wrenching, will soon be forgotten within the next generation or so. The names may not be forgotten, because the Wall and the Travelling Wall will share them eternally, and the public can see posted pictures of the deceased on the VVMF website, but it is the memories and the stories that immediate family members, children, and friends have about a loved one that will eventually fade away. Others, like myself, only have those stories to cling on to, but that too will ultimately fade to future generations and become forgotten history.”
The Reading of the Names began with an opening ceremony on Tuesday, after which volunteers read names for approximately eight hours straight from 4 p.m. on November 7 to 12 a.m. on November 8. The Reading of the Names continued 19 hours daily from 5 a.m. until 12 a.m. on November 8, 9, and concludes today.
Felix Delano Knutson’s name is found on panel 18W, Line 33, Knutson said.
“He served in the U.S. Army as a Combat Engineer (12B) for a little more than 11 years. He enlisted in June 1958 and continuously served until the time of death in Cai Be, Dihn Tuong Province, Republic of South Vietnam on Sept. 4, 1969 with Advisory Team 66, Military Assistance Command - Vietnam (MACV).” Knutson said this was his father’s second tour of duty in Vietnam, with his first tour being in the Pleiku Province with the 299th Engineering Battalion.
The VVMF was authorized by Congress in 1980 to build a national memorial for those who had fallen in the Vietnam War. The VVMF maintains the three-acre site in a partnership with the National Parks Service. The fund also provides support to the National Parks Service, which has collected nearly 400,000 mementos left at the wall since its dedication in 1982.
In addition to the Veterans Day ceremony, the VVMF holds events such as a POW/MIA remembrance, an “In Memory Day” ceremony, a Father’s Day rose remembrance, a Memorial Day observation, as well as a Christmas Tree Ceremony.