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The late William David Tami Jr. of St. Marys was honored last week during the 13th annual In Memory Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Tami, who served as a lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps from 1970 to 1972, was one of 93 people honored posthumously at the event, which recognizes the men and women who have died prematurely as a result of noncombat injuries and emotional suffering caused directly by their service in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) hosts the annual ceremony. The fund was established in 1979 to preserve the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, promote healing and educate the public about the impact of the Vietnam War.
"In Memory Day gives us another opportunity to honor those who made sacrifices because of the Vietnam War," said Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the VVMF. "It also provides a healing environment for the friends and family who sacrificed as well, as we pay tribute to these brave Americans who gave their all for their country."
Like Tami, who died last July of lung cancer, many of the honorees' deaths are caused by complications from their exposure to the chemical Agent Orange during the war. Others succumbed to emotional wounds that never healed in the years following their service. Lisa Gough, director of communications for the VVMF, said the organization wanted to find a way to honor these veterans, since federal Department of Defense guidelines allow only the names of service members who died of wounds suffered in combat zones to be added to the famous black granite memorial known as "the Wall."
"Since 1998, we've had In Memory Day to induct new people into the In Memory program. It's our way of paying tribute to people who died as a result of the Vietnam War, but don't meet the guidelines for having their names included on the Wall," said Gough of the ceremony.
Approximately 700 friends, family members and veterans attended this year's In Memory program. Bill's daughter, Amanda Tami, was among the attendees. Tami said the ceremony was a bittersweet experience.
"It was very sad, but it was a wonderful tribute to all the people, including my dad, who gave their lives indirectly," she said. "I was so proud to be there and see him honored in that way."
Tami explained that pictures of each of the 93 inductees, their dates of death, birth and military service were displayed at the program. The family members stood behind the pictures and, as part of the ceremony, announced the military member's name, rank and and their own relationship with the deceased.
"Once the ceremony part was over, we took the pictures down and put them at the Wall," Tami said. "His picture is on the same panel as the other people who served at the same time he did."
According to Gough, including this year's honorees, more than 2,000 people have been listed on the In Memory Honor Roll. Tami, who nominated her father to be listed on the Honor Roll, said she heard about the program from St. Marys resident Dolly Wehler. Wehler's late husband Leroy served in the U.S. Army. He was added to the Honor Roll in 2005, and Wehler has attended the ceremony every year since.
Tami was accompanied to the In Memory program by her father's aunt, Sue Beveridge. Representatives from the locally based Vietnam Veterans of America Bucktail Chapter 720 also traveled to Washington, D.C. to honor their friend Bill, who had been very active in the chapter prior to his death. In addition to Wehler, an associate member, Chapter 720 members and associate members Jim Steinbiser, Sam Shefcyk, Jim Haight and Jodie Winslow attended the In Memory ceremony.