On Friday, November 11, Mayor Allison Silberberg and other civic dignitaries joined community business leaders, residents, and students as the historical trumpets and flutes of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps shepherded the start of the annual Veterans Day program at the Captain Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Alexandria, VA.
There was a Medal of Honor flag presentation by St. Rita Cub Scout Pack 522, followed by Christiana Drapkin’s solo of “The Star Spangled Banner”, the Pledge of Allegiance led by St. Rita American Heritage Girls (AHG) Troop 1381 and an Invocation by Deacon Steve Dixon of St. Rita Parish.
Of note were honors given to U.S. Armed Forces Veterans including the presentation of ‘50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War’ Commemorative Certificates by Mrs. Lise Harvey, Regent, Anna Maria Fitzhugh Chapter, National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) 9, and then individual honors to Alexandria’s 67 Vietnam War Fallen Heroes.
Touching comments giving tribute to Alexandria hero, Captain “Rocky” Versace (July 2, 1937 – September 26, 1965), were the centerpiece of the program. Captain Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace was a United States Army officer of Puerto Rican-Italian descent who was captured only two weeks from ending his tour of duty. He tried to escape four times, but failed in his attempts. It is reported that Versace insulted the Viet Cong during the indoctrination sessions and cited the Geneva Convention treaty time after time. The Viet Cong separated Versace from the other prisoners. The last time the prisoners heard his voice, he was loudly singing “God Bless America”. On September 26, 1965, North Vietnam’s “Liberation Radio” announced the execution of Captain Humbert Roque Versace. Versace’s remains have never been recovered. His headstone at Arlington National Cemetery stands above an empty grave and can be located in the Memorial section MG-108. (Source: Wikipedia)
Versace was awarded the United States’ highest military decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his heroic actions while a prisoner of war (POW) during the Vietnam War. He was the first member of the U.S. Army to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions performed in Southeast Asia while in captivity.
The solemn service finished with the haunting notes of “Taps” echoing through the instrument from Bugles Across America, followed by the sweet sounds of Christiana Drapkin’s voice singing, “God Bless America.”
You can help the “Friends of Rocky Versace” remember and honor Alexandria’s Vietnam War Fallen Heroes by becoming a member of the Capt. Versace Memorial Association. Questions or comments about the Ceremony or the Memorial Assoc., please contact the “Friends of Rocky Versace” (FoRV) at FoRV59@gmail.com