Starting at 7 a.m. Sunday in front of the California Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Capitol Park, a procession of veterans took turns reading the 5,855 names carved into the black stone monument.
Those names represent the Californians who were among the 58,479 Americans killed in perhaps the United States’ most controversial conflict. To the 110,000 Vietnam veterans in the Sacramento region, the fallen won’t be forgotten, said Martin Snezek, president of Sacramento’s Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 500.
“This is our 16th year of the reading of the names,” Snezek said. “We want to honor all those men – along with those from Iraq, Afghanistan and other wars – who paid the ultimate price to allow us to enjoy a barbecue on Memorial Day.”
More than 300 Vietnam veterans were expected to attend the reading, which often lasts well into the afternoon, Snezek said. They included Sacramento’s Ted Adams, a former Green Beret who did three tours of duty from 1966 to 1969.
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“I was wounded twice, and my name could easily have been on the wall,” said Adams, 70.
Like many Vietnam veterans interviewed, he said the war accomplished “nothing – the government wouldn’t let us do our job and finish it.” Adams recalled that when he returned to the United States, “I had urine thrown on me, and people called me a hired killer and baby burner. Yes, I killed people but never burned any babies.”
Al Sickle, vice president of the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter in Murphys, also served three tours from 1966 to 1969. “We still don’t know why we were there. Nobody told us,” said Sickle, 66, who said he has eight friends from his high school baseball team whose names were being read, all between the ages of 18 and 21 when they died.
One of those who sat quietly throughout the reading, Craig Boullt of Sacramento, said he comes out every year to hear the names, which include that of his friend Alan Guyman of Lomita.
“We lost so many,”said Boullt, who served in 1965 and 1966. “To hear their names is kind of healing.”