Remembering the Fallen

Remembering the Fallen

Gold Star families join in Memorial Day ceremony.

USMA 1959 classmates of Capt. Humbert “Rocky” Versace salute after presenting a wreath at his statue during the sounding of Taps May 27 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Del Ray.
Photo by Allison Silberberg

USMA 1959 classmates of Capt. Humbert “Rocky” Versace salute after presenting a wreath at his statue during the sounding of Taps May 27 at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Del Ray. Photo by Allison Silberberg

Gold Star family members of Alexandria’s fallen Vietnam veterans were among the hundreds who gathered to pay tribute to the city’s fallen with a Memorial Day ceremony May 27 at the Captain Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Del Ray.

The names of Alexandria’s 68 fallen and missing in action service members from Vietnam were read aloud as part of the annual ceremony at the site named for Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam POW Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace.

Prior to the start of the ceremony, a nine-member contingent from the West Point Alumni Glee Club entertained the crowd with three songs from their repertoire: Let There Be Peace on Earth; Mansions of the Lord; and the West Point song, The Corps. 

Lt. Col. Steve Tracy, right, plays Taps as members of the West Point Alumni Glee Club salute to conclude the May 27 Memorial Day ceremony at the Capt. Rocky Versace Plaza in Del Ray.


The ceremony included a wreath laying by members of Versace’s West Point class of 1959 and was attended by several Gold Star family members, including James Spengler, brother of Capt. Henry Spengler and Director of Alexandria's Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities Department.

Friends of Rocky Versace representative Kevin Rue served as Master of Ceremonies, welcoming those in the audience and introducing the Gold Star Family members in attendance. Gold Star family members included: Reba Bayliss, the widow of Capt. Paul Bayliss; Sue Rampey, sister of CPL Robert Cupp; Sue Harvey, sister of MIA 1LT Larry Lilly; Joan Mashburn, sister of CPT Tschann Mashburn; CPT Henry Spengler family members Bette Meuleners, James Spengler and Shawn Spengler; Earl Valentine, brother of PVT Jeron Valentine; and the sister-in law of Rocky Versace. 

A feature of every ceremony is reading the names of Alexandria’s 68 Vietnam War fallen heroes. A volunteer stood by the name chiseled into the stone benches arranged in chronological order of their death in Southeast Asia (1963 – 1972) and read the name. 

Rue emphasized that seven men remain Missing in Action: Rocky Versace, Tony Winkler, Doug Blodgett, Joe Davies, Morgan Donahue, Leland McCants and Larry Lilly. He noted that these seven are a handful of the 1,576 Americans unaccounted for in Southeast Asia from the Vietnam War.

Rue related the story of Versace’s capture, his resistance as a POW and his murder by the Vietcong following 23 months in captivity.

“Rocky often sang patriotic songs to boost the morale of his brother POWs,” Rue said. “The last time his fellow POWs heard his voice, Rocky was loudly singing God Bless America.” 

As the West Point Alumni Glee Club began to sing God Bless America the crowd joined in honor of Alexandria’s fallen.

Members of the Saint Rita American heritage Girls Troop 1381 led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and Lt. Col. Steve Tracy closed the ceremony with the playing of Taps. Deacon Joseph Connor, also from Saint Rita, provided the Invocation and closing prayer.

Elected officials at the ceremony included Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, Council members Canek Aguirre, Sarah Bagley, John Chapman, Alyia Gaskins and Kirk McPike as well as former mayor Allison Silberberg and former city councilman David Speck.

“Capt. Rocky Versace is the U.S. Army's only Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War whose remains have not been recovered and returned by the communists," explained Rue. “Rocky Versace and Alexandria’s 67 other Vietnam War Fallen Heroes are on our minds this Memorial Day. They are not forgotten.”