Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Local faces to be added to Vietnam Memorial ‘Wall of Faces’

J-E News Editor
It is our tradition at The Journal-Enterprise to sit down every November and interview a local veterans for an article to run the week of Veterans Day, but an email I received last week brought about a surprising change in plans. Because of that email, rather than sitting down with a vet, I had the chance to speak with the family of Sgt. David Jameson and PFC Robert Davis, two Providence men who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
These are their stories.
The Wall of Faces
Most people are familiar with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was constructed in 1982 by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF). What many might not be familiar with is The Wall of Faces.

In May, VVMF began trying to collect a photograph for each of the more than 58,000 men and women whose names are inscribed on The Wall. Collected pictures will be used in the Education Center at The Wall and can also be found on The Wall of Faces, a Website where friends and family can post comments and memories about their lost loved one.
As of last week there were 458 Kentucky soldiers on the Wall that did not have photographs available. Sgt. Jameson and PFC Davis were the only two Webster County soldiers whose names were still on that list. Thanks to Facebook and some helpful Webster Countians, that situation will soon be corrected as both soldiers will have their images added to those of others listed on the Wall.
PFC Robert L. Davis
“He was a tall, handsome, kind, loving and adventurous young man,” recalls his  sister Betty Tobler. “He was my protector, my hero, my advisor. He was my big brother whom I had admired and loved all my life.”
Robert Davis was the oldest of seven children. From childhood he showed himself to be independent and hard working. 
“As a small child, he departed from the family’s Baptist church goings and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, a few doors down from his home,” Tobler said. “His best friend was a member there and he wanted to belong to the same church as his best friend.”
While growing up he worked in nearby hayfields to earn money, which he used to buy himself new clothes and to entertain ‘lady friends’.
“After graduating from Rosenwald High School, Robert left Providence to find work in Evansville, Indiana,” said Tobler. Less than two years later he was drafted into the US Army. “He seemed to enjoy boot camp and was considering a career in the Army. Although he had some reservations, he was excited that he would be able to learn how to jump from a plane with a parachute.”
Davis assured his mother before he left for Vietnam that he wasn’t scared and that all would be well. He lost his life on November 17, 1965 while serving in the Pleiku Province of South Vietnam. He is honored on Panel 3E, Row 74 of the Wall.
“I have been to the Wall,” said Tobler. “I still have vivid images of the registry book that lists all of the Vietnam fallen heroes.”
For Davis’ little sister, the wall finally brought closer that she had been missing since first receiving word of his death while attending classes at Morehead State University.
“His casket was closed so I could not be positively sure that he was really gone.  I knew and yet I did not want to know that he was gone.  Seeing his name on the Wall meant that someone, somewhere, had conducted an official investigation and found that my brother had given his life in a cause fought by The United States of America.  While looking at the names on the Wall, I felt an overwhelming grief--not just for my brother but for the too many to count young men and women who, too, had given their all for our country.  And, at the same time, I felt closure.”
Sgt. David Jameson
Sgt. David Jameson also came from a large family, and was also a resident of Providence. He was the second oldest of nine children. He was known as a fast talker, a talent that he used to become an auctioneer as a young man. He is still remembered for using his auctioneering talent to entertain classmates at PHS and customers and co-workers at Duncan’s Store.
“He was funny,” recalled Shirley Utley, Jameson’s sister.
When the Vietnam War started, Jameson didn’t wait for draft papers, he and his best friend went immediately to volunteer for the US Navy. His friend got in, but for an unknown reason, Jameson did not. So he enlisted in the Army.
“That’s how he was brought up,” said Utley. “He believed that’s what you do for your country.”
Utley, who was fifteen years old at the time of her brothers death, said she never really knew exactly what happened to David. She had always believed that he stepped on a land mine. It wasn’t until years later that she would find out the truth.
David left for Vietnam with the 101st Airborne on December 3, 1968, and he was killed in action on January 20, 1969. 19 years after the fact she tracked down five members of his platoon and sent them letters asking about what happened. Only one responded.
“On January 20, 1968, (Sgt. Jameson) led a group of us on a patrol outside of Phuoc Vihn to investigate enemy activity,” Rick Byers of Newport, CA wrote in his letter. 
As the most senior and experienced member of the patrol - only 45 days after leaving US soil - Jameson volunteered to take the point position, acting as a scout about fifty yards ahead of the platoon. Byers said that Jameson could easily have had someone else take the point position, but he did not want to put any of his men in danger.
“Sgt. Jameson was a very brave and highly respected soldier,” he wrote. “He was a paratrooper, he was infantry, he was ‘point man’ - the most respected and bravest person in all of Nam. He volunteered on his own volition to be a paratrooper...and he volunteered to be ‘point man’.”
Byers went on to say that the platoon had entered an area of heavy jungle went they encountered an ambush. Jameson was killed instantly by a hand-detonated clay-more mine, but his death allowed the rest of the platoon to survive and eliminate the enemy 200 members of B Company attended a memorial service the next day, with Jameson’s rifle stabbed into the ground and his helmet on top of it.
Not long after getting Byers’ letter, Utley and her family made the trip to The Wall.
“It was closure,” she said. “It was such a calming place. It’s made of black granite, so when you’re looking at their name on the wall, you see your reflection.”
Jameson is honored on Panel 34E, Row 87 of the Wall. Soon he will also be honored on The Wall of Faces.

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