Memorial Day is important to Wally Walliser.
“There are a lot of men and women who have given their lives in service to this country, and it’s a very small thing that we can do to come out and remember them,” he said.
Walliser is a member of Denizens of the Deep, an organization for submarine veterans. On Monday morning, the group conducted a Memorial Day service at the Vietnam War Memorial on Laurens Street.
Jonney Grunnet, who led the service, gave a brief review of the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1955 until 1975.
Richard Bernard Fitzgibbon Jr., a U.S. Air Force technical sergeant, was the first American to lose his life in the conflict, Grunnet said. Killed by another American airman, he died on June 8, 1956, he said. In 1965, Fitzgibbon’s son, Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, died in Vietnam while serving in the Marine Corps.
“This was the first of three father-and-son casualties during the Vietnam War,” Grunnet said.
In all, more than 58,000 men and women died during the struggle.
“Today, we honor them, and remember what they have done,” Grunnet said.
Grunnet ended the service with a prayer and thanked all those who had lost their lives in any war or military action.
“We miss them and will not forget them,” he said. “We pledge to them that their sacrifices will be remembered and that to honor them, we will work diligently for peace so that our children may know a world without war.”
Following the prayer, Walliser’s wife, Iris Walliser, took a photo of the Denizens of the Deep members who participated in the service. Then she and her husband headed to the Aiken County Veterans Memorial Park on Richland Avenue for the 11 a.m. Memorial Day service that the Marine Corps League’s James L. Hammons Detachment No. 939 conducted.
Bill Weger, an Army veteran who attended the Denizens of the Deep’s event, said he also was going to the service at the Aiken County Veterans Memorial Park.
“It seems like every year fewer and fewer people are taking part (in Memorial Day services),” he said. ‘That’s their choice. I wouldn’t want to force anybody into it. But if they could just take some time out of their day at home to remember, that would be good enough.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Mike Widener, left, and Ron Baker salute during the Memorial Day service conducted by the Denizens of the Deep on Monday morning at the Vietnam War Memorial on Laurens Street.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Iris Walliser, far right, takes a photo of the members of the Denizens of the Deep following a Memorial Day service on Monday morning at the Vietnam War Memorial on Laurens Street.×
STAFF PHOTO BY DEDE BILES Jonney Grunnet, left, speaks during the Memorial Day service conducted by the Denizens of the Deep on Monday morning at the Vietnam War Memorial on Laurens Street. Looking on is Steve Foster.×