Among those etched into the black granite are numerous West Michigan names.
What many people do not know is there is an accompanying educational display at the Vietnam Memorial Wall called The Wall of Faces. Unfortunately, The Wall of Faces, which is also available online, lacks a complete set of photos of all the men and women whose names are listed on the memorial itself.
This is where the Grand Haven Tribune enters the picture. We, along with other news members of the Michigan Press Association, are seeking to locate the missing photos of our local men.
Among the 730 Michiganders with missing photos are six Ottawa County men and eight Muskegon County men. They include:
*PFC Ronald J. Fuite of West Olive. Ronald was born in 1949 and died in South Vietnam in 1970 of multiple fragmentation wounds.
*SP4 Charles D. Mathews of Grand Haven. Charles was born in 1950 and died in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam, in 1970 from an explosive device. A fellow soldier wrote this about Charles: “You are my friend, always remembered, never forgotten.”
*SP4 George A. Overweg of Zeeland. George was born in 1946 and died in South Vietnam in 1965 from multiple fragmentation wounds.
*Sgt. Roger D. Overweg of Zeeland. Roger was born in 1950 and died in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam, in 1970 from small arms fire. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The official record has this: “Sgt. Overweg distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on Sept. 19, 1970, while serving as a member of a combat patrol during search operations in the mountainous area of Binh Dinh Province. While advancing through the rugged terrain in search of an enemy camp, the allies observed an enemy soldier run into an underground cave complex. The allies quickly sent a three-man team into the cave to search for the enemy soldier. Almost immediately they were taken under fire and all three men were seriously wounded. Sgt. Overweg, realizing the gravity of the situation, secured a rope and descended into the cave to assist his comrades. Soon after dragging one of the soldiers to a rescue point, the enemy unleashed a flurry of fire which mortally wounded Overweg. Overweg's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.”
*SP4 Gary W. Peasley of Hudsonville. Gary was born in 1944 and died in South Vietnam in 1966 from small arms fire. A fellow soldier wrote this on his Wall of Faces tribute: “On Dec. 27, 1966, at 1:10 a.m., the sky lit up with mortars exploding and VC storming our lines. Gary was on the very front line and never made it home.”
*SP5 Joel Vruggink of Hudsonville. Joel was born in 1946 and died in Quang Ngai, South Vietnam, in 1968 from small arms fire.
*Lance Cpl. James W. Kooi of Fruitport. James was born in 1948 and is believed to have died in Quang Tri, South Vietnam, in 1967 from a helicopter crash on the first day of his tour of duty. His body was not recovered.
*Others from Muskegon County include Delbert E. Brimmer of Montague, Jerry R. Cole of Muskegon, Ronald T. Kransi of Muskegon, Stephen D. Langler of Muskegon, John E. Laning of North Muskegon, Douglas M. Mallett of Muskegon and Phillip N. Troughton of Whitehall.
These are all men worthy of remembering and honoring. We urge you to visit The Wall of Faces at www.vvmf.org/Wall-of-Faces and, if you have photos of these servicemen, please call the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund at 202-393-0090.
Help us put a face alongside their stories.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.