Local veteran plans to visit graves of local soldiers killed in Vietnam

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Tallahassee By Katie Kaplan | WCTV Eyewitness News
April 12, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- It was a hostile homecoming for many who fought in the Vietnam War and even for those who died in it. But now, a local Veteran is planning to honor the fallen.

On Sunday, April 14, a group will meet at the Hooch at Lake Ella, near the headquarters for the Tallahassee Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. The group will set out at 2 p.m. sharp to honor four American soldiers from the Tallahassee area who died in Vietnam.

"The first one we're going to is Joe Harris and he was a helicopter pilot." said David Wilson.

Wilson told WCTV reporter Katie Kaplan that he has spent a lot of time researching the soldiers and "tracking the relatives down from 50 years ago."

He said he has also been painting in preparation.

"We place a painted rock on their grave so when their family member comes by, they can see that painted rock and know that somebody cares, that they're not forgotten," he said.

He plans to visit the graves of 34 men in the month they died. He said there are roughly 70 to 80 in the Big Bend.

"When our dead are killed in action and are brought back they are honored, but it was not like that in Vietnam," he said. "So, we just want to let people know that we still care."

Wilson said he was inspired by his good friend Lt. Col. Danny McKnight, who survived the Black Hawk Down incident. Wilson said he was doing it mostly for the families that were left behind. Some of his research revealed more than a dozen of the local men were married and that many had children.

"Eight children grew up without a father and that's a great sacrifice to make," he said. "So, we just want people to know that we respect that and we want their children to know that we respect their father."

Wilson made his first visits last month when a group stopped at five graves. He hopes the tradition will continue on year after year. Anybody that is interested in honoring the heroes is welcome to do so.

On Sunday, they will honor:
-Willie Brown
-Joseph Harris, Oak Lawn Cemetery
-Harris was helicopter pilot. His gunner that was with him the day he died will be on hand.
-Johnnie Stephens at Roselawn Cemetery
-Marvin Zion Brock in Bainbridge, Georgia