Lost ‘faces’

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WILMINGTON –For brothers Tom and Jim Reece, what began as a memorial for Wilmington-area soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam War has evolved into an effort to recognize more than 1,750 of those brave souls that were born, based or buried on Tar Heel soil.

And for all their efforts to obtain photos of these valiant fighting men, 174 faces are missing, including several from the Roanoke-Chowan area. The Reece brothers are asking for the help of local citizens as they want to place a face with a name listed as part of the new Education Center at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. That project is expected to be completed by next year.

Two of the “faces” needed are from Hertford County – James Hudson of Como, and Roy Rogers West of Harrellsville. In his correspondence with the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on Monday, Jim Reece was not able to provide any information about Hudson and West, other than their names.

However, info was abundant on another foursome of former Roanoke-Chowan area natives.

US Army Sgt. First Class Willie Robert Rascoe Jr. died April 9, 1970 in Japan after being medivaced there following an accidental explosion at his base in Binh Duong, South Vietnam. He was 29 years of age and was on his second tour of duty in Southeast Asia at the time of his death.

Upon the return of his body to his home soil, funeral services for Sgt. Rascoe were held at Indian Woods Baptist Church with the now late Rev. C. Melvin Creecy officiating. Rascoe – born Nov. 22, 1940 in Windsor and a member of Indian Woods Baptist since early childhood – is buried in the church cemetery.

At the time of his death, Rascoe was survived by his wife, Margaret R. Lloyd Rascoe of Windsor; a son, Richard Morris of Saint Petersburg, Florida; his parents, Willie Robert Rascoe Sr. and Annie Virginia Bond Rascoe of Windsor; a brother, Charles C. Rascoe of Suitland, MD; and two sisters, Shirley Reevy of Fairhaven, NJ, and Joyce A. Rasmussen of Brooklyn, NY.

According to information on Rascoe, it is known he served with the Army’s Echo Company, 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 199th Infantry Brigade, “Red Catchers.”

Rascoe was awarded The Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), The Bronze Star Medal, The Army Commendation Medal, The Purple Heart Medal for his combat related wounds, The Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, The National Defense Service Medal and The Good Conduct Medal(s).

One was Rascoe’s Army comrades recalled what took place on April 9, 1970.

“I was with SSG Rascoe that day in April when three of us and over 50 civilians were burnt,” said Stan Rzasa of Hawthorn Woods, IL. “We were getting ready to burn excess mortar charges when someone yelled food. A crowd of Vietnamese civilians mobbed us, thinking it was cheese.

“SSG Rascoe tried to get the women and children off the pile when another kid ran up and threw a cigarette into it, igniting it and burning SSG Rascoe, myself, and another SGT,” Rzasa continued. “We survived, unfortunately SFC Rascoe did not. He was a very good man and we would have done anything for him.”

Another photo needed is that of Army PFC Walter Harris of Northampton County, who was killed by small arms fire in South Vietnam on Sept. 20, 1966.

Born June 12, 1947 to Arthur and Della Deans Harris – whose former address was listed as Route 1, Box 258, Jackson – PFC Harris enlisted in the U.S. Army in Newark, NJ and served his country for less than one year prior to his death of the age of 19. PFC Harris was not married and there no other known brothers or sisters. He is buried in Rest Haven Cemetery in Wilson County.

PFC Harris served with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. He was awarded The Purple Heart Medal for his combat related wounds, The Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, and The National Defense Service Medal.

Another Northampton County “face” needed for the new Education Center is that of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Marshall Pernell Ivey, a native of Garysburg. He died in service to America on Nov. 28, 1969 in Gia Dinh, Vietnam.

Born Oct. 30, 1937, Ivey was the son of Joe Connie and Lucille Garner Ivey of Roanoke Rapids. He is buried in the Oak Grove Church Cemetery in Garysburg.

Master Sgt. Ivey served for 12 years with the 377th Supply Company, 377th Combat Support Air Wing, 7th Air Force. He was awarded The Air Force Commendation Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, The Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, The National Defense Service Medal, and The Air Force Good Conduct Medal.

The Reece brothers also seek a photo of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Ralph Howell of Gates County. Howell was a war casualty, killed by an undetermined explosion on Nov. 26, 1970 while in action in Quang Nam, Vietnam.

Born on Feb. 20, 1944 in Haslett Township of Gates County, Howell was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Bennett Howell who at one time made their home at Route 1, Box 305, Gates.

At the time of his death, Howell was the husband of Shirley A. Howell. Her last known address is Sunlake Mobile Homes, Lot 3, Daleville, Alabama.

Sgt. Howell served for three years with Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade. He was awarded The Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), The Purple Heart Medal for his combat related wounds, The Vietnam Service Medal, The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal, and The National Defense Service Medal.

He is buried in First Baptist Church Cemetery, Gates.

“My brother and I have not been able to locate any of the family members of these six men,” said Jim Reece. “We have tried cold calling, but the parents of these men are deceased; the daughters have new last names, and others have moved elsewhere.”

Reece added that these photos were needed to add to the Vietnam Memorial Fund’s “Faces on the Wall” Project. That project was launched with a groundbreaking ceremony in November of last year.

“This memorial will feature photos of those who died in action during the Vietnam War,” Reece stated. “Here in North Carolina, myself, my brother and one more volunteer are trying to locate every one of their gravestones and a photo of each one as well. We started out with 1,610 and it ballooned to 1,760 and we have it whittled down to 174. We need your help to fill in the gaps we have with the final 174, to include Mr. Hudson, Mr. West, Mr. Rascoe, Mr. Harris, Mr. Ivey and Mr. Howell.”

Those with information can contact Jim Reece at reecejim@yahoo.com.

“My brother and I feel that having all these photos in place is important – not to us, but for the family members of these brave soldiers,” Jim Reece concluded.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal