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Ceremony Honors Uninscribed Vietnam Veterans

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Vietnam veteran Unarice Duncan, of Fort Washington, MD, died in 1989.
Rebecca Sheir
Vietnam veteran Unarice Duncan, of Fort Washington, MD, died in 1989.

By Rebecca Sheir

The third Monday in April is Patriot’s Day: commemorating the start of the Revolutionary War. The day also has been dubbed "In Memory" Day, to honor those some call the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War.

Unarice Duncan of Fort Washington, Maryland, was an airman in Vietnam. His family says exposure to the jungle-clearing herbicide, Agent Orange, caused his death in 1988.

But you won’t find his name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. So his wife, Barbara, has never paid a visit.

"I avoided this place," she says. "I avoided here."

Until today. Duncan is here to honor her husband, and other Americans, who died of injuries related to the war, but not suffered in combat. That’s why their names aren’t on The Wall.

Each year the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund invites people such as Duncan to fill out applications on behalf of their departed loved ones. Then, during the annual "In Memory" Day Celebration, family members come to The Wall bearing placards, flowers and, in Duncan’s case, a cream-colored box with a white bow.

Duncan says it contains "photographs, and his work I.D. I carried it for 21 years," she says. "And my wedding ring. It’s time to let it go."

And letting go is much easier, she says, now that her husband is getting the tribute he, and his fellow unsung heroes, have so long deserved.


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