Nearly 36 years after his death, U.S. Marine Lester James Veazey, of Enid, is receiving one more honor from a grateful nation.
Veazey’s name is the latest to be engraved into the black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and today he and three others whose names were added to the wall in recent days will be immortalized in a name addition ceremony. Those four names bring the memorial’s official roll call of killed or missing in action to 58,286.
Veazey is the 17th from Enid.
“His name should be there,” Ken Parker, Veazey’s half brother, said.
Parker, who still lives in Enid, said he plans to attend the ceremony on the National Mall, along with other members of his family.
“He died from an injury (received) over there,’’ he said of his brother. “I have always thought his name should be there.”
Through the years, Parker said he would think about the memorial and believed an omission needed to be corrected.
“It has been kind of a sore spot,” he said.
According to his military records, Veazey was 19 years old when he joined the Marines in February 1967 and went off to war. On Jan. 20, 1968, less than a year later, the rifleman was patrolling Hill 881 in Vietnam’s Quang Tri Province, when he suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
“A sniper got him,” Parker said, describing the wound as “brutal.”
Veazey survived his severe injury and spent time in hospitals in Vietnam, Japan and the United States. He eventually returned to Enid, but never fully recovered from his injury.
“He was in a wheelchair,” said Parker, who recalled visits to his brother’s nursing home. “He would get sick every so often.”
On June 6, 1977, nine years after he was wounded, Veazey passed away and was buried with military honors in Memorial Park Cemetery. He was 29 years old. Four siblings survived, including another half brother, Ron Parker, who also lives in Enid.
Veazey’s name was not among those listed on the Vietnam Wall in 1982, when the main portion of the memorial was completed. Two years ago, after visiting the memorial and learning names were being added to the memorial, Veazey’s family launched an effort to include his name. Parker’s daughter-in-law, Nancy, who lives in Florida, volunteered to spearhead that request. She heaped praise on the Marines for their help.
“I can’t say enough about how helpful and professional they were,’’ she said. “This was not a quick turnaround.”
Records had to be ordered and reviewed by the Marines to determine that Veazey was eligible for the honor. Then, that information had to be sent on to the U.S. Department of Defense, which also had to come to the same determination.
“I think we benefited from those people who came before us, who fought the fight,’’ she said when asked about the two-year effort.
Through the years, she said, standards put in place to determine who is eligible for the memorial have become clearer. After the official review, military officials agreed with the Parkers that Veazey met the criteria of having sustained a wound in Vietnam that eventually led to his death.
Lee Allen, a former Oklahoman who now serves as a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, said the organization schedules the engravings, but leaves the final decision to military officials.
“We just follow orders,’’ Allen said. “Each request is judged on its own merit.”
After the ceremony today, which also will be used to honor Mother’s Day, Allen said Veazey and the three others added to the wall will be celebrated again on Memorial Day.