Gold Star father from Sharon keeps watch at memorial

Ronald Veverka said volunteering for the Vietnam Moving Wall's visit helped ease the pain of losing his son in Iraq

vietnam memorial wall hermitage
A man reads names on the Vietnam Moving Wall during its visit to Hermitage.

HERMITAGE, Pa. (AP) – Guard duty at a veterans’ memorial ended Monday for Ronald Veverka of Sharon. But he continues his vigil at another nearby memorial.

Veverka, formerly of Jamestown, volunteered to oversee the Vietnam Moving Wall’s visit to Hermitage. Erected Thursday on East State Street, the memorial lists the names of all U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines killed in the Vietnam War. The half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., was disassembled Monday and is headed to its next temporary location.

As an Army sergeant of that war, the memorial means a lot to Veverka. He was assigned to the combat engineers group during the 1960s conflict in southeast Asia.

“We did everything from building bridges to repairing roads,” he said.

Veverka arrived in what was then South Vietnam in 1968 and was assigned to a U.S. base 60 miles south of the nation’s capital Saigon.

After serving his tour of duty, he returned home, married and raised a family.

Son David followed in his dad’s footsteps and joined the Army.

David was called to duty during the war in Iraq, but stayed in regular contact with his family by phone and internet. By all accounts, the 25-year-old sergeant was doing well.

Then came that awful day in the spring of 2006, that dreaded early morning knock on the door that parents of a child in uniform fear.

An Army officer, along with two state troopers, arrived with word that David had perished in a military hospital near Baghdad a few hours after a roadside blast tore through his convoy.

“Even now it still hurts,” Veverka said. “We’ve lost a lot of good young people in the Middle East.”

Prior to his tour of duty in Iraq, David spent three years as a member of the elite Old Guard, which stands watch over the fallen in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. David is now buried there.

“I try to get down there as often as I can and put flowers on his grave,” Veverka said. “It’s still hard to do.”

David Veverka’s name is etched on the War on Terror Memorial at America’s Cemetery in Hermitage. The War on Terror memorial, run by the nonprofit War on Terror Foundation, lists all the names of those serving in the U.S. military who died fighting terrorism.

Ronald Veverka often visits that memorial. He knows by heart the exact location of David’s name.

In a very real sense, Ronald Veverka pulled double duty this past weekend. He helped his fellow Vietnam vets find the names of friends who were killed in that war, while also remembering the fallen in the war on terror.

He spoke with his fellow Vietnam vets of the time they spent in bases and jungles of southeast Asia, of the times they had as young men in a fierce war.

It was a time they can’t forget.

Veverka also can’t forget the wars a generation later – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war that claimed his son’s life.

Volunteering for the Vietnam Moving Wall’s visit helped ease the pain, he said. He guarded the wall, just as his son had guarded the fallen at Arlington

“It’s like I’m always thinking of David,” Veverka said. “He was 25 years old. I’m not an emotional man, but I am now. It’s tough, it’s difficult.”

Online: http://bit.ly/2aHM5rC

Information from: The Herald, http://www.sharon-herald.com

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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