Alexandria, VA – “God Bless America” was the last thing anyone heard from U.S. Army Capt. Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace. The 28-year-old Alexandrian was a prisoner of war for more than two years before he was killed by his Viet Cong captors, and that was after four escape attempts. Versace remains the only Medal of Honor winner from Alexandria, and his courage under insurmountable odds has forever put him on the rolls of one of the city’s greatest residents.
Versace’s story and the service of the 67 other Alexandrians who lost their lives in the Vietnam War were highlighted at the city’s 18th annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center.
“We’re here to recognize all of the veterans, but specifically the 68 who were lost in Vietnam from Alexandria,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said at the event. “They paid the ultimate sacrifice, and it’s important that they are remembered and honored for that.”
It may be hard to believe, but it was 50 years ago that the U.S. was halfway through the Vietnam War. The end to the disastrous conflict left a bitter taste for thousands of veterans who returned home without ticker tape parades or fanfare – such a difference from the wars of their fathers and grandfathers – World Wars I and II.
The ceremony included a wreath laying by Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and performances from the Alexandria Harmonizers and The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James T. Jackson (Ret.), the director of the USA Vietnam War Commemoration, asked all of the Vietnam vets in the room to accept the gratitude of the nation.
“I believe that your contributions to the nation’s security can not be overstated,” Jackson said. “To all our veterans, I add our thanks and the nations gratitude and offer you a long overdue welcome home.”