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Keeping Memories Alive At The Kentucky Vietnam Memorial

Josh James

This Veterans Day, the list of soldiers engraved on Kentucky’s Vietnam War Memorial is one name longer.

In a quiet, modest ceremony Tuesday, veterans, their families, and others gather at the state’s memorial to Kentucky soldiers who lost their lives in one of the country’s most divisive wars.

"I'm very proud to be here. I'm proud of my service. This is not only a holiday for the dead but for the living," Vietnam veteran Billy Smith tells the audience.

Smith is standing behind a giant sundial, which casts a shadow on each soldier’s name on the anniversary of his death. After the speakers have finished, Jerry Cecil with the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation Board leads curious visitors to the last name to be added, Army Sgt. John Jones.

Credit Josh James / WUKY
The marker for Sgt. John Jones at Kentucky's Vietnam Memorial

"He was a special forces sergeant who was wounded... [and] apparently taken prisoner but he was MIA," he explains.

That meant his name had been relegated to a spot on the memorial not touched by the sundial’s shadow. Now, thanks to advances in DNA technology, 41 years after his death Jones has taken his rightful place among the fallen – a reminder that, while there’s no changing the past, the work of remembering goes on. 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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