PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- A special unveiling of 140 names being added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall South was the highlight of the annual Memorial Day Observance Ceremony, May 28, 2017, at the Pensacola Veterans Memorial Park.
Guest speaker retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Scott Moyer was honored to be a part of this ceremony.
"All these names are very real people," Moyer said. "I don't know what words could ever put into perspective that brave men and women gave their lives so we could be here today."
Among the names being added were four members of "The Lost Back End Crew," Lt. Walter Linzy; ATC Joseph Aubin; ATR3 Richard Stocker and ATR3 Richard Hunt, of an EA-3B Skywarrior aircraft from Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Two (VQ-2).
The Lost Back End Crew received this name after having to bail out over the South China Sea during an in-flight emergency while en route to a combat mission May 26, 1966. The men were never heard from again.
Control of the aircraft was regained after the back end crew bailed out. Lt. Colin Pemberton, the navigator who stayed aboard the plane, recorded their bail out as "Lost Back End Crew" in his logbook.
The four men were not originally listed on the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial because they were not originally identified as "combat casualties" by the Department of Defense. Stephanie Loper, Hunt's niece, spearheaded the campaign to fix that and have the names added to the memorial in Washington so they could be properly remembered for their efforts in the Vietnam War.
Loper's campaign was officially a success when the names were added to the memorial in 2012.
The ceremony in Pensacola took place on the same weekend 51 years after the Lost Back End Crew incident.
Loper said being a part of the project gave her the opportunity to meet the family members of the rest of the Lost Back End Crew. She attended the ceremony with Jay Aubin, the father of one of the four lost men.
"Through them I got to meet my uncle," she said.
Loper's uncle died five years before she was born.
Capt. Mark Stockfish, commodore Training Air Wing Six in Pensacola, has a direct link to the campaign to honor the men.
He was the commanding officer of VQ-2 when Loper approached the command for help with the project. He and his wife were present for both sets of name unveilings in Washington and Pensacola.
"Memorial Day is a great time for this ceremony," Stockfish said. "It lets us remember all of our shipmates, especially the ones who have given the ultimate sacrifice like the Lost Back End Crew. I am so glad that I got to represent VQ-2 at both ceremonies and show that we remember our fallen comrades."
Wall South is a one-half scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and is the only permanent memorial structure in the United States for the Vietnam War outside of the nation's capital.
Unlike the Washington memorial, which adds names annually, Wall South does not update names regularly. The 140 names added to Wall South this year are in coordination with the names updated on the Washington memorial over the years.
For more information on the Pensacola Veterans Memorial Park visit http://www.veteransmemorialparkpensacola.com/page/home or http://www.vietvet.org/wallsobk.htm
For more information on a modern naval officer's involvement in the project visit http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/2017/05/25/lost-back-end-crew/
For more information on the Lost Back End Crew visit http://archive.kitsapsun.com/northwest-navy-life/whidbey/the-story-of-the-lost-back-end-crew-ep-492413350-357276071.html or http://lostbackendcrew.com/